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NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro is traveling with the president. He's in Rio. Hi, Ari.


HANSEN: When the president spoke last night, did he frame this as a U.S.-led operation or did he describe this as a supporting role?

SHAPIRO: You know, he mentioned allies again and again. He talked about the consensus among European and Arab allies. He described this as an international mission. And in that way, it almost echoed comments that President George W. Bush made eight years ago to the day when the U.S. invaded Iraq, talking about this is a coalition mission. Here is part of what President Obama said last night to reporters in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.

BARACK OBAMA: As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners.

SHAPIRO: You've heard that emphasis on the U.S. making just a contribution. He said the U.S. role will be limited and reiterated that no American boots on the ground will enter Libya. And he says that the mission is to protect Libyan civilians. In essence, his underlying message is this is not a war of choice but the world can't sit idly by while a dictator kills his own people.

HANSEN: Ari, what can you tell us about the president's actual involvement in the decision to launch military strikes against Libya?

SHAPIRO: In the evening, White House spokesman Ben Rhodes told us it was because he was getting briefings. The president was talking to his national security advisor, to Secretary of State Clinton, the Secretary of Defense Gates and even to foreign allies. He called the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and then just before a lunch with American and Brazilian CEOs, he had this consequential conference call. He then went to the lunch and came out and talked to his speechwriters about what he wanted to say in that statement that we just heard a clip of.

HANSEN: Ari, if the president is sending the U.S. military to war in Libya, why is he in Brazil?

SHAPIRO: White House spokesman Ben Rhodes told us last night that they didn't need to cut the trip short because members of the national security team are on this trip. They're keeping him briefed. And he can go ahead talking to military leaders and foreign leaders in between these public events that are focused on the economy.

HANSEN: Why is it so important to the White House that the president not cut this trip short?

SHAPIRO: Brazil also recently found huge oil reserves and yesterday President Obama said we want to buy that. We want to be one of your best customers. So, it's really in the White House's interest and the White House believes in America's best interests to strengthen these ties with Brazil and the rest of Latin America.

HANSEN: That's NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro. He's traveling with the president in Brazil. Ari, thank you.

SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you.


HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.