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Obama in Brazil - no questions please

US President Barack Obama with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha during their airport arrival at Brasilia Air Base in Brasilia, Brazil, Saturday, March 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Pablo Martinez Monsivais

BRASILIA, Brazil -- Diplomatic rituals have for decades followed the American president around the world. But often, issues arise that can alter the scene.

Almost every time the president meets a foreign head of state, either at home or abroad, there are the usual joint statements followed by a question or two from American and home country press. The press corps lingo for this is a "one and one" or "two and two" meaning one or two questions for the American side and one or two for, in this case, the Brazilian side.

Today as the president prepares for his meeting with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, the game has changed. The White House press corps had prepared for a joint press conference, statements from each president followed by questions.

But as the president touched down today in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, we learned that there would be no questions.

With Japan struggling to contain the nuclear disaster and handle the humanitarian crisis there, and the Libyan government fighting the rebel forces in its own country as U.N. powers begin to enforce a no-fly-zone, the press has been anxiously awaiting a chance to ask the president directly about U.S. involvement in these crises.

But the Libyan crisis has apparently taken away the right to ask questions to the president. The Brazilian government has decided that no questions would be posed to the leaders, and because the American president is a guest of Brazil, he and the American press have to follow their lead. Rousseff, who was elected in October, apparently isn't too keen on taking questions.

Specifically, she may want to avoid questions from the press on Libya as Brazil was one of the five countries who abstained from the United Nations vote this week declaring a ceasefire and approving a no-fly-zone in Libya that was approved by the U.S., along with Britain and France, 10-0, with five abstentions.

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"We are not convinced that the use of force... will lead to the realization of our common objective -- the immediate end of violence and the protection of civilians," said Maria Luiza Riberio Viotti, Brazil's representative at the United Nations. She also said that Brazil was deeply concerned about the situation in Libya and said that her vote to abstain should not be interpreted as approving the actions of the Libyan government. She said that military actions approved by the U.N. could have unintended consequences "causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting."

So President Obama and President Rousseff will make their statements. They will surely talk about the mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries and President Obama will undoubtedly talk about the positive economic development that can come from a strong relationship with Brazil.

He very may well say something about the ongoing world crises, but he won't be answering any questions about them today.

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.