Serbia ‘open to solutions’ on Kosovo

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, left, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, right, review the honor guard during an official welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Bucharest. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Serbia ‘open to solutions’ on Kosovo

BUCHAREST, Romania: Serbia’s president said Thursday that his country won’t recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, but is open to discussing solutions to the contentious issue.
“If we recognize Kosovo ... Albanians will gain everything, and my question is — what will Serbs get?” said President Aleksandar Vucic, who was in Romania for talks with President Klaus Iohannis.
“You’re going to get your monasteries protected, your churches protected. My counter question ... would be — and otherwise you would burn it, or what?” he said in English, echoing the emotions of many Serbs who view Kosovo as Serbia’s historic heartland and refuse to give up claims to it.
He added, however, that Serbia is willing to discuss “all possible solutions,” though part of the issue is “how to sell it to our public and how the Albanians sell it to their public.”
Vucic said if both sides delivered a solution “it will mean that we do care about the future of our people and the future of our nation,” although he acknowledged that failure was a more likely outcome.
Last month, during a visit to Belgrade, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Serbia it had to solve its dispute with Kosovo and implement a series of reforms before it can join the European Union.
Vucic thanked Iohannis, who offered to help on the Kosovo issue. Romania traditionally has good relations with Serbia and supports its bid to join the European Union.
“If the solution is not fair.... and is not supported, it won’t be a solution,” Iohannis cautioned.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized by 115 countries. Serbia and Romania do not recognize Kosovo.
About 10,000 people were killed during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo which ended when NATO bombed Serbia to end its crackdown against independence-minded ethnic Albanians.


After the hurricane comes the deluge on South Carolina coast

Updated 2 min 14 sec ago
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After the hurricane comes the deluge on South Carolina coast

  • Hurricane Florence is expected to cause record flooding downriver in Georgetown County as its final act
  • In Washington, lawmakers considered almost $1.7 billion in new money for disaster relief and recovery

GEORGETOWN: Eleven days ago, Lee Gantt was at a Hurricane Florence party in her neighborhood in Georgetown, where the story goes that some houses haven’t flooded from the Sampit River since they were built before the American Revolution.
She will spend Tuesday with sandbags, watching the nearby river rise from Florence’s heavy rains and seeing if the luck finally runs out on her home built on Front Street in 1737.
“We thought this might be coming. We just left everything up above the floor just like from the hurricane. I’m nervous. Can’t you see me shaking?” she said, stretching her arms out.
The Sampit is one of five rivers that reach the Atlantic Ocean in and near Georgetown on the South Carolina coast. And Hurricane Florence — which started with record rainfall in North Carolina — is expected to cause record flooding downriver in Georgetown County as its final act. So much water is coming that it is backing up other rivers that aren’t even flooding.
The county has recommended almost 8,000 people leave their homes — more than 10 percent of the population. Officials expect floodwaters to top several bridges, nearly cutting Georgetown County in two and leaving only one highway out during the expected crest early Thursday.
The deluge has made its way so slowly down the Lumber, Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers that the state last week released detailed maps on where it expects flooding. Upstream in Horry County, the floodwaters have invaded close to 1,000 homes near Conway as the Waccamaw River was slowly making its way to a crest a full 4 feet (1.2 meters) over its record level set just two years ago after Hurricane Matthew.
But in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said it was time to start concentrating on recovery. “Florence is gone but the storm’s devastation is still with us,” Cooper said at a news conference.
About 400 roads across North Carolina remained closed due to the storm that’s claimed at least 46 lives since slamming into the coast Sept. 14. Crews have reopened the major highways closed in the storm. Interstate 95 was reopened to all traffic Sunday night for the first time since the floods, and Cooper said Monday that a previously closed portion of Interstate 40 had reopened sooner than expected.
Power outages and the number of people in shelters also were declining. Around 5,000 people were without power, down from a peak of about 800,000, and about 2,200 people were in shelters, compared with a high of around 20,000, the governor said.
In Washington, lawmakers considered almost $1.7 billion in new money for disaster relief and recovery. And the economic research firm Moody’s Analytics estimated that Florence has caused around $44 billion in damage and lost output, one of the 10 costliest US hurricanes. The worst disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, cost $192.2 billion in today’s dollars. Last year’s Hurricane Harvey cost $133.5 billion.
Down in Georgetown County, it is a disaster nearly two weeks in the making. Georgetown County spent days under hurricane warnings before Hurricane Florence made landfall about 110 miles (175 kilometers) up the coast near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
The worst of the storm stayed well north, causing only minor flooding in Georgetown and some downed limbs.
“We had a hurricane party,” Gantt said. “Now I don’t know what to do.”
Several blocks up Front Street, the main business district was busy, but with people leaving. All along the sidewalk were piles of artwork, antiques, and boxes as owners emptied out their inventory to take to higher ground.
Tomlinson department store sent an empty truck normally used to stock stores and employees rushed to fill it with everything. The store has never flooded, but predictions call for up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water by Thursday. “The anticipation has been nerve-wracking. Though, I’m glad we had the time to do this,” said district manager Kevin Plexico.
Georgetown was positioning ambulances and firetrucks in the busy, tourist section along the beaches in case the floods cut off the US Highway 17 bridges as expected. National Guard troops were prepared to float more equipment across the river if needed. Exhausted emergency officials said they have lived nothing but Florence for more than two weeks.
“The work has been done,” Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said. “We just need to pray.”