Mladen Grbin believes Bob Wareing's romantic view of Yugoslav socialism blinded him to the realities which ultimately led to his suspension from the Labour Party.

THE war in former Yugo-slavia has claimed many victims. Millions have been dispossessed, displaced, and made refugees. As many as a quarter of a million have perished. The traumas of the recent past, through experiencing and witnessing murder, torture, rape, and forcible expulsion from their homes, the loss of relatives and family separation, coupled with an uncertain future for those surviving, either within the country or in unwelcome exile throughout the world, is a vivid testimony to Europe's latest war, echoing Second World War atrocities.

Six years on from the beginning of hostilities, and nearly two years after the uneasy peace imposed by the Dayton/Paris Agreement, this war indirectly claimed another victim. In June 1997, the Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, Robert Wareing, was suspended by the Labour Party as a censure for allegedly undeclared business interests and activities involving Serbia and Republika Srpska. By his own admission, Mr Wareing felt suicidal as a direct result of this, and was counselled by the widow of a Tory Member of Parliament who committed suicide some years ago.

The war in former Yugo-slavia has caused almost un-precedented international dis- course, as it presented the international community with a dilemma in the creation of the ''new world order''. The ensuing scramble for positions in this new order brought British foreign policy, under the tutelage of former Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, to the fore through taking charge of the European approach to the problematics, and claiming a consensus on the issue. The apparent diversity of positions within the European Union and the strains of transatlantic relations were, at a crucial time, very successfully masked by initiatives led by the

Foreign Office. This diversity of views, arguments, and

positions was equally in evidence in political circles within the UK.

The coalition of views and positions formed argued the nature of the war, its causes, and the possible solution.

The ensuing differences were founded on pragmatic and ideological premises, all too often avoiding the facts on the ground. Naivety, partisanship, or direct personal interest were at times a paramount obstacle to a clear understanding of the war and, arguably, resulted in confusion in

public opinion and, worst of all, prolonged the atrocities on the ground.

The formal role of Bob Wareing was as an MP, as a member of the Select Committee for Foreign Affairs, and as chairman of the British/Yugoslav parliamentary group. As a member of the traditional left within the Labour Party, like many other sympathisers of the Yugoslav social and economic experiment, Wareing, understandably up to a point, would have been disappointed to see Yugoslavia dissolved. The semi-romantic view of Yugoslav socialist society, and the apparent Yugoslav hospitality and openness to those who showed interest made them an easy target for propagandists and others in the argument that all but the Serbs sought the dissolution

of Yugoslavia. A simple trap to fall into.

Wareing was not the only one, in one way or another, to fall into this category, earnestly accepting the Serb position that the fact that the Serb nation was a martyr at the gate of Europe, defeated and subdued by the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, followed by claims of heroism in the Second World War, was sufficient to give its contemporary aspiration credence, namely the creation of a Greater Serbia

as the best successor to

Tito's Yugoslavia.

This would have caused Wareing to declare in Parliament that the Muslims are Serbs, having descended from those who converted from the Orthodox to the Muslim religion during Ottoman rule, contrary to historical fact. He equally declared that Bosnia was a province, not a state, and that it had never been a state, in spite of all historical fact to the contrary. He also perpetrated the myth that more than 60% of the land in Bosnia and Hercegovina was owned by the Serbian people when the conflict started. He stated that only one large town which could be described as Muslim had been taken by the Serbs, the town which controls the water supply to Banja Luka. The census of 1991 suggests a different picture.

On his return from Bosnia in 1993, Wareing stated as fact the uncorroborated evidence that 40 bodies, massacred in northern Bosnia and being ex-humed, were Serbs executed by the Croats. When asked who took him to the exhumation site, Wareing admitted that it was his hosts, the Bos-nian Serbs and, when asked who confirmed that these were the bodies of the people he claimed they were, the answer was the same - the Bosnian Serbs. He related this experience on a number of occasions, recalling the stench which, as he said, would stay with him for a long time.

The facts of this particular matter have never been independently confirmed. How-ever, what has been confirmed is that the northern part of Bosnia which Mr Wareing visited was thoroughly ''cleansed'' of non-Serbs by Serbs, and was close to the site of the now infamous concentration camps of Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje. In all, 500,000 non-Serbs were forcibly expelled from the area. On one site alone, near the town of Kljuc, 184 bodies of non-Serb victims were found last autumn in a mass grave. There is no public record of Mr Wareing's comment on this. The unintended metamorphosis of Mr Wareing as a victim may give him a deeper insight into the plight of two young Bosnian refugee women in the UK who committed suicide, and perhaps will enable him to offer counselling to their families, and to those 350,000 refugees in Germany alone, many of whom are not allowed back home to their own country,

such as

the 65-year-old grandmother, Vahdeta Nakic, who has recently been refused by the Home Office to join her family, now refugees in Manchester, and who has had her marching orders from the

German authorities. Vahdeta comes from Derventa, not far from the site that Robert Wareing visited in 1993, the Serb population of which

(40% according to the 1991 census) now constitutes virtually all the current inhabitants of the town.

Mr Wareing may return safely to the House of Commons, perhaps the wiser for the experience of what it feels to be

a victim, like those whose prospect of return to their own houses remains in grave doubt for the foreseeable future. Whatever motivated Mr Wareing to act as he did, in the House and elsewhere, a useful exercise for him and those like him would be to test those motives against the facts on the ground.

n Mladen Grbin is co-author of A Test for Europe. Report: Confidence Building in former Yugoslavia published by the University of Glasgow.