WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of Americans seeking information about the Peace Corps has risen 39 percent since President Bush's State of the Union address rallied volunteers for the war against terrorism.

``We are experiencing a wonderful rush of interest following the president's State of the Union message,'' agency spokeswoman Ellen Field said Thursday.

Bush called for all Americans to commit themselves to at least two years of volunteer service and announced an expansion of the Peace Corps, along with AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. The number of Peace Corps volunteers will double to about 15,000 over the next five years under Bush's planned expansion.

Last week, the president announced plans to send a team of Peace Corps veterans to Afghanistan to assess future aid efforts there.

Field said in light of the increased interest, agency officials are trying to shorten the application process, which typically takes three to six months. ``We're trying to shorten it to between 90 and 120 days,'' Field said.

The Peace Corps hopes soon to return volunteers to three areas it pulled out of after the Sept. 11 attacks _ Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. ``We are about to do safety assessments to determine the best time we can go back into those nations,'' Field said.


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