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Britain Announces International Fund to Woo Taliban

The move is part of a new effort aimed at bringing peace and security to war-torn Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced a new international fund that will be aimed at winning over Taliban fighters. The move, announced during an international conference in London, is part of a new drive to bring peace and security to war-torn Afghanistan.

Mr. Brown made the announcement to a host of delegates from around 70 nations.

"We are today establishing an international trust fund to finance this Afghan-led peace and reintegration program to provide an economic alternative to those who have none," Mr. Brown said.

The program, which is thought to be worth around $500-million, will give jobs to Taliban fighters who denounce extremism. It is part of a plan to weaken the insurgency in Afghanistan with the hope of eventually bringing peace to the war-torn country.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called for international delegates to support the plan, which aims to reintegrate Taliban fighters into mainstream society.

"We must reach out to all our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers who are not part of al-Qaida or other terrorist networks," Mr. Karzai said.

Mr. Karzai called for Saudi Arabia to help mediate.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would support the program as long as the insurgents pledge to renounce violence and al-Qaida, and embrace democracy.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Karzai spoke at length on the importance of development for the future of Afghanistan. Mr. Brown highlighted the move earlier this week by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to provide up to $1.6-billion in debt relief from major creditors.

He also said the international community aims to increase the share of aid delivered through the Afghan Government to 50 percent in the next two years.

Mr. Karzai said right now more than 80 percent of aid bypasses the Afghan government.

"Large security costs of development projects and unacceptably high margins of profits plague reconstruction contracts," Mr. Karzai said.

Afghan Minister of Finance Omar Zakhilwal said the aim of transferring leadership to the Afghan government could not be achieved unless the country's government is given more control over financial aid.

Watch more on the conference in Sonja Pace's report

"If this conference is the beginning of a new strength and partnership, a partnership where the Afghan government assumes increased leadership in responsibility for restoring peace and security in Afghanistan, then how aid is delivered must change," Zakhilwal said.

According to the World Bank, Afghanistan's national budget is 90 percent financed by foreign countries and multi-lateral bodies.

Afghanistan received $6.3-billion in aid in 2008-2009, making it one of the world's most aid-dependent countries.