President Bush decided to release $42.5 million in military aid to El Salvador but postponed delivery for 60 days in an effort to promote a peaceful end to a decade-old civil war.

"We must give the peace negotiations under the U.N. mediation every possible chance to succeed," White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Tuesday in a statement in announcing the double-barreled action.Fitzwater said Bush sent a report to Congress in compliance with a 1990 foreign aid act designed to apply pressure against both the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government and rebel forces.

He said the president's decision to release the previously withheld aid was based on recent violence by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an alliance of rebel groups, as well as the fact that FMLN has acquired new arms.

A pivotal point came Jan. 2 when the rebels downed a U.S. Army helicopter and, according to U.S. officials, murdered two of the three crew members. The third died of injuries sustained in the crash.