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The Bush administration says it is preparing to respond to increased leftist rebel activity in El Salvador by releasing aid for the Salvadoran military that had been withheld.

That decision, announced during a visit to Washington by Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani, showed continued unwavering administration support for Cristiani's 2-year-old government.Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson made the disclosure Wednesday after President Bush met for two hours with Cristiani.

Aronson said actual delivery of the aid may be several months away because of lengthy bureaucratic procedures.

Last fall, Congress approved half of the administration's $85 million military aid request, setting aside the remainder for release if Bush determined that the rebels did not make a good-faith effort to negotiate a peace settlement. El Salvador has been in a civil war for 11 years.

Aronson justified release of the funds by citing stepped-up military activity by the rebels. A representative of the insurgents countered by saying the Salvadoran military has been engaged in a military offensive recently.