Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he plans to offer money and jobs to insurgents to draw them back to civilian life and away from their Taliban masters.

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Karzai told the BBC on Friday the major powers, including the United States, would fund the scheme to tempt Taliban fighters to lay their weapons aside and head home to their communities.

“Those that we approach to return will be provided with the abilities to work, to find jobs, to have protection, to resettle in their own communities,” he said.

“We know as the Afghan people we must have peace at any cost.”

Hardline Taliban supporters, who were members of al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, would not be accepted, the president stressed.

The Taliban gives its volunteers higher salaries than the Afghan government can afford to pay its forces, and the president said his project would have international backing to provide the necessary funds.

The United States and Britain would announce at a major conference on Afghanistan in London next week that they had decided to back his plan, the president said, adding Japan would also offer financial backing.

Despite initial reluctance to back the project, Karzai said the United States had now come round to the idea and would offer support. Asked about American support for the scheme, he said: “We have been talking about this issue of reconciliation for a long time. Now they actually are backing it.”

He has faced severe criticism from Western powers over August’s fraud-tainted elections and his weak leadership, but said his position could be strengthened by increased resources.

“My presidency is weak in regard to the means of power, which means money, which means equipment, which means manpower, which means capacity,” said Karzai.

The president defended his administration, however, as one of the most legitimate that had ruled Afghanistan for some years. “Where legitimacy is concerned, for the past eight years Afghanistan has had perhaps the most legitimate of its governments ever seen,” Karzai said.

He also sounded an optimistic note about the war-ravaged country’s future, predicting that in five years Afghanistan could be in control of its own security and the fight against corruption and drugs.

And Karzai still sounded angry about stinging criticism from the United States and Britain about the way the presidential election was run, which he insisted was an effort by the West to undermine him.

“Unfortunately our election was very seriously mistreated by our Western allies,” he said.

But despite this bitter note, the president said he trusted the Western powers “because we are in a relationship together.”

The Afghanistan conference in London on January 28 will see the international community try to thrash out conditions and set a broad timeline for transfering power to Afghan forces.