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Japan, U.S. discuss plan to reform U.N.

Tokyo The Japanese government has entered into discussions with U.S. officials on a joint draft plan to reform the U.N. Secretariat, government sources said.

In the draft reform plan to streamline both U.N. projects and its budget, the two governments will propose abolition of some divisions of the U.N. Secretariat and push for an early retirement system for staff.

The two governments hope to make the plan public by late next month to reflect changes in the U.N. budget in and after 2006.

The two governments also will consider a proposal that the United Nations improve systems to protect whistle-blowers.

Voters in Chechnya elect new parliament

Moscow The Russian republic of Chechnya elected a new parliament Sunday, a vote viewed by the Kremlin as a political milestone but decried by human-rights activists as illegitimate in the midst of a guerrilla war and reports of police abductions and torture of innocent civilians.

The election of the North Caucasus republic’s 61-seat assembly marks the final step in the Kremlin’s plan to bring peace to Chechnya, where separatist fighters have been battling Moscow for the province’s independence since 1994.

Concerned about the potential for violence during the vote, authorities deployed 24,000 Russian and local police and troops at the province’s 430 polling stations. As of Sunday night, there were no major reports of violence.

The Kremlin’s United Russia party was expected to dominate the contest, though other major Russian political parties, including the nationalist Rodina group and liberal parties Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, also fielded candidates. Final results were not expected until today. More than 350 candidates were vying for 58 of the 61 assembly seats.

Yemenese execute suspected al-Qaida ally

San`a, Yemen A suspected al-Qaida ally was executed by a Yemeni firing squad Sunday after being convicted of killing a prominent politician and plotting a deadly attack on three American missionaries in 2002. Ali al-Jarallah was blindfolded and shot in the courtyard of the central prison in the capital, San`a, in the presence of judiciary officials, several reporters and the victim’s lawyer.

Yemen has long had a reputation of tolerating lawlessness and Islamic militancy. It has witnessed many attacks on foreign targets, including the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors.

Alberta skiers rescued when gondola fails

Lake Louise, Alberta A ski lift at Canada’s famed Lake Louise resort malfunctioned Sunday, trapping about 65 people in gondolas for hours as darkness fell and temperatures dropped below freezing. When the resort could not get the lift working again, ski patrollers rescued the stranded passengers by traversing the cable using rescue equipment in a feat one witness likened to something out of a James Bond movie. Resort officials said the most severe injuries were a few cases of frostbite

The lift stopped about 3 p.m. local time, shortly after World Cup ski races ended at the Rocky Mountain resort. One of the safety switches tripped, said the operations manager