Obama content in background over Libya

President Barack Obama listens to the U.S. national anthem after arriving to Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19, 2011.
AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Latest update 4:28 p.m. EDT

As the Obama administration responds to the Libyan conflict, one thing appears to be certain: they don't want to appear to be in charge.

While world leaders met in Paris to discuss the way forward, including military operations to enforce the United Nations-backed cease-fire and no-fly-zone, the President was meeting with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia's Presidential Palace.

And when the leaders' meeting finished, the first Western voice speaking out against Libya's government was French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said Libya's "murder madness" had to stop, but said diplomacy was not closed if the Qaddafi regime would end its aggression against the rebels.

As Sarkozy was speaking, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was briefing the President, who after an hour, delivered a lengthy statement during an appearance with the new Brazilian President.

While most of his remarks dealt with the beneficial relationship between the two countries, he turned to Libya for about a minute.

"Our consensus was strong and our resolve is clear, the people of Libya must be protected," said Mr. Obama. "In the absence of an immediate end of violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act.

Shortly after President Obama spoke, Secretary Clinton went to the microphones in Paris, where she was representing the U.S. at the meetings that included many heads of state.

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Clinton spoke and took questions for over 20 minutes on the situation in Libya and Bahrain. Her remarks make it clear that the U.S. government is following the lead of its allies.

"This is a broad international effort," she said. "The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed. The United States will support our allies and our partners as they move to enforce" the United Nations resolution, said Clinton.

With U.S. troops currently engaged in two wars in Muslim countries - Afghanistan and Iraq - it's clear that the U.S. doesn't want to be seen as leading a third.

President Obama said yesterday (and Clinton reiterated today) that U.S. troops will not be on the ground in Libya because, unlike the other wars, any conflict in Libya is a world effort, with the U.S. in a supporting role.

Late this afternoon -- The United States military took over, leading the front end enforcement of the no-fly-zone with multiple cruise missiles launched from US ships aimed at Libyan targets. President Obama called it "a limited miltiary action" to support the international coalition whose goal is to "protect the libyian people."
The President continued to say, when he spoke in a hastily arranged statement in Brazil to announce the action, as US missiles rained down, that the action is not taken neither lightly or unilaterally. "The writ of the international community must be enforced" Mr. Obama said in announcing the US started action becase of the "unique capabilities" of the US military. He then stated twice, that US will not deploy ground forces to Libya.
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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.