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World Briefing - 2003-02-19

South Korean authorities are investigating Tuesday's arson attack that killed at least 125 people aboard two subway trains in the southern city of Daegu. Police have been questioning subway officials about the attack, specifically about why a second train was allowed to enter the subway station minutes after the first train was engulfed in flames. Authorities say a man started the blaze by setting fire to a milk carton filled with a flammable liquid and dropping it into a subway car. The second train that pulled into the station also erupted in flames. A 56-year-old man with a history of mental illness is being questioned.

In the Midwestern U-S state of Illinois, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says the city will file criminal contempt charges against the owners of a nightclub where 21 people died in a stampede. At least 53 others were injured. An estimated 15-hundred people were crowded into the second-floor of the club on Chicago's South Side when a fight broke out early Monday. To break up the fight, security guards used pepper spray, which sent hundreds of choking patrons fleeing.

Japan is still considering the fate of four people, believed to be North Koreans, who entered a Japanese school in Beijing Tuesday and requested asylum. Japan says officials at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing are still questioning the four and that it is unclear what action the government will take. Some Japanese officials are said to be concerned that granting asylum to the four may encourage more North Koreans to try to flee to Japan.

Bolivia's cabinet has resigned amid continuing unrest over the president's economic austerity programs. The 18 ministers resigned Tuesday in a letter to President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. On Monday, thousands of Bolivians demonstrated against the president's economic plans, which included a proposed tax increase. The demonstrations began last week; at least 29 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured.

Dozens of trucks carrying Syrian troops began pulling out of positions in northern Lebanon today, headed back to Syria. The unexpected announcement was made Tuesday after a meeting between Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Syrian and Lebanese military officials. At least 20,000 Syrian soldiers have been in Lebanon since the start of Lebanon's civil war in 1975.