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I should be grateful if you would circulate this letter and its annex as a Security Council document.
Many crises and outbursts of violence led the Council to convene urgently on questions of terrorism (Madrid attacks of 11 March), Palestine and Kosovo.
In March, the Security Council held 20 public meetings and 15 closed consultations. It adopted eight resolutions (1530 (2004) to 1537 (2004)) and four presidential statements. The President also made seven statements to the press in the name of the Council members. The Council also held two private meetings with troop-contributing countries.
The French presidency published daily on its web site ( www.un.int/france) the programme of work of the Council and summaries of its activities.
Middle East, including the Palestinian question
On 18 March, the members of the Council heard a public briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Danilo Türk, on the situation in the Middle East.
He underlined the increase in violence and suffering: 101 people had lost their lives — 80 Palestinians and 21 Israelis. At the same time, a small window of opportunity for restarting the peace process remained open.
In the aftermath of the recent suicide bombings, the planned meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers had been called off. He urged the two men to meet and begin to work together to implement the Quartet’s road map. Prime Minister Sharon’s welcome announced decision to withdraw the Israeli presence from the Gaza Strip could be a positive contribution to the search for peace, if it were carried out as part of the road map, in consultation with the Palestinian Authority, and if the withdrawal were full and final.
The humanitarian situation remained dire and UNRWA might soon be obliged to severely cut back its activities because of a sharp drop in its emergency funding (only $45 million pledged so far of the $193 million requested for 2004).
In south Lebanon, the situation continued to be worrisome because of explosive devices planted by Hezbollah along the Blue Line and Israeli air violations of Lebanese airspace.
Meeting in private consultations, the members of the Council generally shared the views expressed by the Secretariat. Most of them deplored the continuing violence and recalled the need to achieve a global peace, by resuming political dialogue and implementing the road map.
On 22 March, the members of the Council had an exchange of views following the assassination of the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and decided to continue their discussions at the expert level.
Following private consultations on the morning of 23 March, they decided to hold an open debate in the afternoon, which was attended by many delegations. The draft resolution subsequently presented by Algeria and Libya could not be adopted, because of the negative vote of a permanent member.