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Officer who commanded Australian troops in Somalia warns that the Government should be cautious about sending troops to Rwanda.

ELLEN FANNING: Australia should not send troops into Rwanda until there's a truce between the rival factions in the civil war according the to the colonel who was in charge of the Australian Battalion in Somalia. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Gareth Evans, says that Cabinet will decide by next Monday if Australia will send 300 troops as part of the United Nations humanitarian mission.

But Colonel David Hurley says the fact that at least one of the warring factions is opposed to any international presence is reason enough for caution. Colonel Hurley is speaking, here, to Stephen McDonald.

STEPHEN McDONALD: Colonel David Hurley, should Australian troops be sent to Rwanda?

DAVID HURLEY: Now, that's a decision the Government will be making in the not too distant future. Obviously, there's a lot of international pressure to get forces over there but they need to be working from Australia's best interest, and we just await that decision.

STEPHEN McDONALD: What are the main things they should be considering when making up their mind?

DAVID HURLEY: Oh, apart from the condition of the people in Rwanda, we really need to consider what sort of risk we're going to put our own troops at, what support will be available, are they working under an organisation that has a plan that's workable, and that we'll be able to achieve what we think we should be able over there.

STEPHEN McDONALD: Well, just looking at that potential risk to Australian troops, the Rwandan Patriotic Front have said they would regard any UN intervention as tantamount to an invasion. Is this reason enough for us not to go?

DAVID HURLEY: I think at the present time, it is. We're not looking at being a peace enforcement force. Everyone's talking about not even peacekeeping. It's getting some humanitarian support to the people who have been displaced and I think that's the main aim at the present time, and I don't think the Government is looking at us getting involved in forcing a truce in the warring factions there.

STEPHEN McDONALD: So we wouldn't be part of the French proposal for a more pro-active military operation.

DAVID HURLEY: I wouldn't believe so, from what we're hearing from Canberra.

STEPHEN McDONALD: When you were in Somalia, there were elements at least who considered the Australians and other UN troops as hostile and the enemy. Is the situation in Rwanda worse than this?

DAVID HURLEY: I don't think you can draw a parallel between the two. We still have government forces or a government in action in Rwanda, whereas in Somalia there was no such relationship, and so anyone could say they see us as the enemy in Somalia because there were just so many factions, so many sides to the issue. You know, if the RPF, the patriotic front, wish to see us as the enemy, that's fine, and I think that's one good reason why we shouldn't go at the present time.

STEPHEN McDONALD: How would the conditions have to change, then, for us to go?

DAVID HURLEY: I think there would need to be a truce that had been agreed to and negotiated through the UN - both sides separated, agree to zones that they would stay in - to allow a force to be positioned in the country.

STEPHEN McDONALD: There were some disastrous results following the UN intervention in Somalia. How could these be avoided in Rwanda?

DAVID HURLEY: Oh, I don't think the - you know, these aren't similar instances. You draw some principles from them.

STEPHEN McDONALD: What would they be? What could we learn?

DAVID HURLEY: The important thing, I think, is just to keep the eye on what your end game is or what your end state is, and that end state is to bring the country back to a condition of stability. And sometimes personalities may distract you, but really, it's to develop the political structure, help to provide a basis for discussion negotiations so they can occur without sides being threatened, and, at the same time, help the people re-establish themselves.

ELLEN FANNING: Colonel David Hurley who was the Commander of the Australian Battalion in Somalia.