US administration asking Congress for $400 million for Palestinians

US President George W. Bush is asking Congress to approve $400 million in new aid for the Palestinian Authority, the US consul in Jerusalem said Monday. Jacob Walles told Palestinian journalists of the new request in a meeting. The allocation comes as preparations are underway for a Mideast conference, called by Bush for later this year, aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Walles said $200 million of the new aid would be aimed at the private sector and infrastructure, $150 million for budget support and $25 million each for security and refugees. The allocation would help counter a huge deficit in the Palestinian budget that followed the Western aid cutoff. Foreign aid covers about half of the Palestinian Authority's operating budget.