President Obama is hastening his return to Washington as the U.S.-led military strike against Libya increasingly distracts from his Latin America trip.
As Air Force One touched down in El Salvador on Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced changes to the president's itinerary. A visit planned for Wednesday to the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador, where slain Archbishop Oscar Romero is buried, was shifted to Tuesday. Obama was also scheduled Wednesday to tour Mayan ruins one hour outside the capital city, but that has been canceled.
Obama was holding a bilateral meeting with President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador on Tuesday, followed by a joint news conference. Funes hosts the president and first lady for an official dinner Tuesday night. Obama was scheduled to return to Washington on Wednesday evening.
Despite his absence, White House officials have maintained that the president is deeply engaged in the military effort to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. They offered a detailed account, for instance, of the president's notification of a downed U.S. fighter jet over Libya, saying he received word from National Security Adviser Tom Donilon at his hotel suite in Santiago on Monday evening, and further updates during a dinner hosted by the Chilean president.