asia

Fire in Subway Kills 3 in South Korea

SEOUL -- A man threw a milk carton filled with flammable material in a subway car in the city of Daegu, about 200 miles southeast of Seoul, igniting a blaze that killed at least three people and injured 114, police said today.

The injured were rushed to hospitals. YTN, an all-news cable channel, reported that some of them were in serious condition. A suspect was arrested.

Police were interrogating a 46-year-old man whom witnesses said carried a milk carton box filled with flammable material into a subway car, said Kim Byong Hak, a police lieutenant in Daegu.

"When the man tried to use a cigarette lighter to light the box, some passengers tried to stop him. Apparently a scuffle erupted and the box exploded into flames," Kim said.

YTN reported that 12 subway maintenance workers appeared to be still trapped underground.

TV footage showed black smoke billowing out of ventilator shafts of the downtown subway. Traffic came to a standstill as ambulances rushed to the scene. The subway was filled with toxic gas, impeding rescue operations, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Associated Press

THE AMERICAS

Mexican Politicians Push Death Penalty

Politicians in Mexico's most populous state vowed yesterday to push ahead with a plan to institute the death penalty despite questionable public support and strong opposition from human rights groups, the president and the Roman Catholic Church.

The effort, which goes against the country's historical opposition to the death penalty, is shaping up to be one of the hot-button issues in state and national elections. Leaders of the formerly ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said that results of a referendum held Sunday gave them a mandate to push for capital punishment in Mexico state, a sprawling region of suburbs and shantytowns surrounding Mexico City.

"The results were very clear," said the state PRI president, Isidro Pastor. "We asked the people and the people responded. . . . We have to act accordingly."

With 13 million residents, Mexico state is the country's most populous and one of the most diverse. The nonbinding referendum, sponsored by an alliance of the PRI and the Green Party, asked voters whether they would like to see kidnappers and murderers put to death. The poll also asked whether life sentences should be imposed on rapists, corrupt police officers and judges.

Pastor said final returns showed that 85 percent of voters were in favor of capital punishment and 95 percent favored life sentences. But only 800,000 people, or about 10 percent of the state's eligible voters, participated in the referendum, raising doubts about whether the PRI had a mandate.

Associated Press

Thousands Urge Bolivian Leader to Quit

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Thousands of Bolivians took to the streets, calling for President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to resign and denouncing the government's handling of a deepening economic crisis.

A column of farmers and unionists descended on the downtown Plaza San Francisco, shouting anti-government slogans and decrying the military's use of force during last week's deadly riots, triggered by an unpopular tax plan.

Shopkeepers, fearing a repeat of the looting that engulfed La Paz on Wednesday, pulled down metal gates to protect their storefronts as the protesters marched by.

Last week's disturbances began when 7,000 police officers seeking a 40 percent pay raise walked off the job to protest a government plan for a new tax to reduce the budget deficit, as required by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for new funds.

Clashes between government troops and striking police officers and protesters left 22 dead and more than 100 people injured. Looters ransacked dozens of businesses and torched at least 13 government buildings.

Associated Press

FOR THE RECORD

Israel has given formal notice that it is seizing land near a Jewish pilgrimage site in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem to build a security wall, the mayor said. Israeli officials confirmed the order was sent to residents of the area but denied claims by Mayor Hanna Nasser that several homes would be destroyed to make way for the wall. . . . Eight days after India and Pakistan expelled each other's deputy ambassadors, the neighbors have agreed to allow them to be replaced, the Indian foreign minister said. . . . NATO detained three former rebels suspected of atrocities in Kosovo, the first time the U.N. war crimes tribunal has acted against ethnic Albanian suspects.