Obama's potentially awkward Brazilian arrival
The U.N. Security Council votes on Resolution 1973
March 18th, 2011
07:14 PM ET

Obama's potentially awkward Brazilian arrival

Brasilia, Brazil (CNN) - Just hours after declaring the US would join a "strong" coalition to launch military action against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi if necessary, President Obama is heading to a country that abstained from joining the coalition that passed the critical United Nations Security Council vote authorizing force.

Obama is scheduled to arrive here in Brazil on Saturday for a bilateral meeting at the Grand Planalto Palace with President Dilma Vana Rousseff, the first female leader of Brazil, one of just five nations that voted to abstain on Thursday night's vote before the U.N. Security Council.

A Brazilian official told CNN that Rousseff's government believes U.N. Resolution 1973 is too wide in scope. In addition to a potential no-fly zone over Libya, the resolution also allows member nations to take "any means necessary" against the Libyan government.

U.S. officials downplayed any notion that Brazil's position on Libya will cause friction at the start of Obama's five-day tour of Latin America, even though military action may commence over the weekend during the president's stops in Brasilia and Rio.

Obama and Rousseff had been scheduled to hold a joint news conference here on Saturday, but it has now been changed to just joint statements, meaning the leaders will not take questions from the media of either country. But senior U.S. officials told CNN that Brazil had requested, before the U.N. vote, that the leaders not take questions from the media. The U.S. officials said the Obama administration pushed for media questions, but the Brazilian officials would not agree.

Obama will also travel to Chile and El Salvador where the White House hopes to keep the focus on their efforts to create American jobs by boosting U.S. exports in this region instead of on tensions over Libya.

"The U.S. enjoys a close and dynamic relationship with Brazil," said a senior Obama administration official. "We value Brazil’s leadership in regional and multilateral institutions, including the U.N. Although we have not always agreed, we appreciate the strong working relationship we have and are fully confident that Brazil will uphold the Security Council’s decisions as they’ve shown they have in other steps recently."

The other nations abstaining from the vote were China, Germany, India, and Russia. The resolution passed, by a 10-0 margin, thanks to the support of key U.S. allies like France and the United Kingdom.

Brazil, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, did vote in favor of the earlier U.N. Resolution 1970 that authorized tough sanctions against Libya to try and force Gadhafi to stop attacking civilians in his own country.

Obama said at the White House on Friday that the second resolution authorizing military action - including the no-fly zone to prevent Gadhafi from bombing civilians from the air - is necessary to put further pressure on the dictator.

"If Gadhafi does not comply, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action," Obama said.

But the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the U.N., Ambassador Maria Luisa Viotti, said during Thursday night's session that his nation's vote "should in no way be interpreted as condoning the behavior of the Libyan authorities or as disregard to the need to protect civilians and respect their rights."

Viotti said that Brazil condemns "the Libyan authorities’ disregard for their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights" and understands the Arab League's call for a no-fly zone.

"It is our view, however, that the text of the resolution before us contemplates measures that go much beyond such call," Viotti said in prepared remarks released by the Brazilian government. "We are not convinced that the use of force as contemplated in the present resolution will lead to the realization of our most important objective – the immediate end of violence and the protection of civilians."

Viotti also expressed concern that military action "may have the unintended effect of exacerbating tensions on the ground and causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting."


Topics: Brazil • Libya • President Obama • The News

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