Former prime minister Shimon Peres renewed Israel's request for special US financial aid for the development of the Negev and Galilee. Peres met in Washington with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and discussed the issue with her. Talking to reporters outside the State Department building in Washington, Peres said that now that Israel was out of the Gaza Strip, it was time to focus the attention on the Negev and Galilee and that is why he was raising again the Israeli request, based on a public pledge made by US President George Bush in his last meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Israel put in a detailed request for special aid that reached over $2 billion, but following Hurricane Katrina Israeli officials decided to put the request on hold due to the huge cost of the post-hurricane rebuilding effort for the US. Though in principle the US administration has approved the special aid to Israel, the sides have not yet reached any agreement on the final sum or the breakdown of the aid money. In his meeting with Secretary Rice, Peres said that after the elections the new Israeli government will be willing to conduct direct negotiations with the Palestinians and discuss a final status solution, based on the process laid out in the road map. Peres said that the emergence of a new centrist party in Israel would make it easier to make decisions regarding the peace process.