U.N. development chief Mark Malloch-Brown says a dollar figure on the cost of reconstruction in Afghanistan will probably be known by January.

The estimates of what it will cost to rebuild infrastructure and return Afghanistan to a functioning society currently range from $6 -$30 billion. Mr. Malloch-Brown, who attended a meeting in Washington Tuesday to discuss Afghan reconstruction, told reporters a realistic figure on cost must be ready in time for a meeting of donor nations that is set for mid-January.

Mr. Malloch-Brown says that, while the financing will come from donor nations, the actual planning and work of reconstruction will be conducted by the Afghans themselves. "This is going to be very much an Afghan led and managed process with critical technical assistance and management reinforcement from expatriates," he said. "We must do nothing to undermine now an effort of Afghans to lead their own country."

Mr. Malloch-Brown says many of the 2,200 native Afghans now working for the United Nations inside Afghanistan could be shifted to reconstruction work.

The U.N. official pointed out, however, that any reconstruction plan is contingent on the establishment of a viable interim administration in Afghanistan. U.N. sponsored talks on that are scheduled to begin Monday in Bonn, Germany.