Ramallah: The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, yesterday declared that Washington would expedite its offer of about $40 million, intended for development projects in the West Bank and Gaza, as a sign of its support for the Palestinian Authority.

She said the money would be used for the expansion of current programs and to finance new projects as part of American government pledges to the Palestinians announced before the U.S. presidential election.

In a press statement yesterday, the mission manager for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the West Bank and Gaza said, "We want to move quickly to help restore hope for the Palestinian people." And he added, "This money will allow us to accelerate work on new water pipes and plumbing and begin some new projects."

The statement also said that over many months, the American agency has worked persistently with its Palestinian partners, including the Ministry of Planning and other government officials, economists, academic leaders and businessmen to identify areas of activity that need attention to answer the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Not less than 12 projects will be quickly addressed or expanded with the use of the new money.

One of the new projects will be the construction of 20 small gardens or green areas throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The gardens will ease the tension of life in the cities, because they will contribute to a feeling of well-being and enable people to relax, enjoy and revive themselves, easing the pervasive sense of exhaustion.

Another project includes plans to clean septic tanks. Part of this project will be to transfer a rainwater catch basin in a region overcrowded with the people to transfer polluted rainwater to a garden, which will limit the dangers to public health and provide an entertaining place for 60,000 people in Gaza City.

In the field of education, part of the new funds will finance improvements in 12 schools of trade and technology. The goal is to improve the education of thousands of students by providing their schools with repairs and new equipment.

USAID will also update computer facilities in 20 social science schools to improve Internet access and training for 5,600 students.

In addition, 11 university libraries will obtain financing for the arrival of students and teachers and to provide them with an international-level education. USAID will finance the purchase of books and subscriptions for thousands of newspapers, magazines and scientific journals for reference, based upon submitted requests submitted by Palestinian university libraries.

The financing of loans for smaller projects will also expand, including a program of micro-credit loans for women, and job creation programs.

With these newly-financed loans, there will also be an overall expansion of school reform and reconstruction.

USAID operates foreign aid programs in more than of 80 countries in every part of the world.

Since 1993, Palestinians have received over $5.1 billion in economic aid from USAID - more aid than has been offered by any other country.