Brasilia, Brazil - Just hours after declaring at the White House that he has helped put together a "strong" coalition to launch military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi if necessary, President Obama is heading here to a country that abstained from voting on the critical United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force.
Obama arrives here Saturday for a bilateral meeting at the grand Planalto Palace with President Dilma Vana Rousseff, the first female leader of Brazil, which was 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 because besides opening the door to member nations imposing a potential no-fly zone over Libya, the resolution also allows those 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 will also be traveling to Chile and El Salvador, and the White House is hoping to keep the focus on efforts to create American jobs by boosting U.S. exports in this region instead of any tension 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 to abstain on the vote were China, Germany, India and Russia. The resolution passed anyway, by a 10-0 margin, thanks to the support of such key U.S. allies as 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 to force Gadhafi to end attacks on 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 her 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."