Michele Kelemen

A former NPR Moscow bureau chief, Michele Kelemen now covers the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

In her latest beat, Kelemen has been traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from Asia to the Middle East and Europe, tracking the Obama administration's broad foreign policy agenda. She also followed the two previous Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and was part of the NPR team that won the 2007 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of the war in Iraq.

As NPR's Moscow bureau chief, Kelemen chronicled the end of the Yeltsin era and Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power. She recounted the terrible toll of the latest war in Chechnya and the tragedy of the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk. She also brought to listeners a lighter side of Russia, with stories about modern day Russian literature and sports.

Kelemen came to NPR in September 1998, after eight years working for the Voice of America. There, she learned the ropes as a news writer, newscaster and show host.

Michele earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Russian and East European Affairs and International Economics.

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4:42am

Fri December 14, 2012
Politics

Rice Drops Out Of Race For Secretary Of State

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 6:06 am

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

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6:36am

Tue December 11, 2012
National Security

U.S. Adds Syrian Rebel Group To Terror List

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 10:55 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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4:54pm

Thu December 6, 2012
Middle East

U.S., Russia Try To Find Common Ground On Syria

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 6:40 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at Dublin City University in Ireland on Thursday. She also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss Syria.
Kevin Lamarque AFP/Getty Images

As Syrian fighting intensifies in Syria, diplomatic efforts are also heating up.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the main international envoy to Syria were all in Dublin for an international gathering Thursday. The meeting came as Syria's opposition tries to get better organized to offer a real alternative to President Bashar Assad's regime.

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5:00pm

Fri November 30, 2012
U.S.

U.N. Ambassador Rice Not The Typical Diplomat

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 8:24 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has had a tough week. At the U.N., Rice had to explain to the world why the Obama administration was part of a small minority voting against the Palestinian statehood bid. She's also been under attack as a potential secretary of state. And as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, her critics seem to be growing in number.

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5:25am

Sat November 17, 2012
Politics

Secretary Of State Speculation Turns Up Heat On Rice

Originally published on Sat November 17, 2012 1:41 pm

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media at U.N. headquarters in April.
Seth Wenig AP

President Obama hasn't even named his choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plans to step down at the end of this term. But there's been a lot of heated rhetoric this week over one of the front-runners, Susan Rice.

Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spoke on behalf of the administration on five Sunday talk shows days after the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. At the time, she suggested the attack began as a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video. U.S. officials now say it was a terrorist attack.

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4:05am

Thu November 15, 2012
Politics

Obama's Visit To Myanmar: Too Much, Too Soon?

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 8:15 pm

A newspaper with a front-page photo of President Obama is displayed at a press house in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, on Thursday, ahead of Obama's visit.
Soe Than Win AFP/Getty Images

When President Obama sets off to Asia this weekend to highlight his so-called pivot to the region, he will make a bit of history: Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar.

The country, also known as Burma, was a pariah state for decades, ruled by a ruthless military dictatorship. That is changing, and the Obama administration has encouraged a dramatic reform process in the country. But it may be too early for a victory lap.

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4:38pm

Wed November 14, 2012
World

Obama Defends U.N. Envoy Amid Republican Attack

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 8:16 pm

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is considered a leading candidate to become the next secretary of state. Leading Senate Republicans say they would seek to block her if she's nominated.
Mario Tama Getty Images

President Obama sounds like he's in for a fight over the woman who could be the next secretary of state. Republicans have been blasting U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the way she characterized the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.

But the president came to her defense in his news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me," he told reporters.

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4:32am

Wed October 10, 2012
National Security

House Panel To Examine Consulate Attack In Libya

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:48 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A House committee is investigating last month's attack that killed the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at a consulate in the city of Benghazi. And today, senior State Department officials will be on the receiving end of politically-charged questions. Republicans say that the Obama administration rejected repeated requests for more security.

NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

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6:50am

Sun October 7, 2012
The Two-Way

The U.N.'s 'Superhero Man': A Rocking Tribute To A Humanitarian

A Norwegian comedy duo managed something rare: to get concert goers cheering for a U.N. official.
YouTube.com

It is not often that a United Nations official gets the crowds roaring. But a Norwegian comedy duo managed to get concert goers cheering for Jan Egeland in this video posted on YouTube, describing Egeland as "a United Nations superhero man" and "a peacekeeping machine":

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7:43am

Sat September 29, 2012
Middle East

U.S. Increases Aid To Syria As Violence Rages On

Originally published on Sat September 29, 2012 3:17 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will give another $45 million in aid to Syria. That aid will mostly go toward humanitarian assistance, but it will also include communications equipment for the opposition in Syria. The news came at the end of a week of speeches at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, where many raised alarms about the bloodshed in Syria. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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5:24am

Thu September 27, 2012
World

Clinton: Al-Qaida May Be Linked To Libya Attack

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested a connection between al-Qaida in North Africa and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. She did not give any further details on what role the al-Qaida affiliate may have played in the attack

4:49am

Tue September 25, 2012
World

Clinton Kicks off A Busy Week Of Diplomacy

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 12:00 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

President Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly today, at a time when U.S. embassies and consulates have been the target of protests across the Muslim world. Mr. Obama's aides say he will use this speech to again condemn the anti-Islam video that offended many Muslims.

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5:40pm

Thu September 20, 2012
Middle East

Mideast Violence Prompts Calls For New U.S. Policy

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 6:05 pm

Egyptians destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Sept. 11, during a protest over the film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
Mohamed Abd El Ghany Reuters/Landov

The protests and violence aimed at U.S. interests in the Middle East have set off a domestic debate about what the U.S. could or should do to relate to new political movements in the region. The Obama administration says it will continue to engage the region. The campaign of Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, says the U.S. needs to do more to lead.

But there are others who say that both parties have it wrong, and that U.S. policies from both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed.

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6:05am

Sat September 15, 2012
Middle East

U.S., Israel Divided Over 'Red Line' For Iran

Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 8:27 am

President Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in March. Netanyahu and the Obama administration clashed openly this week over the issue of Iran's nuclear program.
Amos Ben Gershom GPO via Getty Images

The Obama administration often talks about its strong bonds with Israel, but relations between the two leaders don't look that way at all.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration openly clashed over Iran this week. The White House also announced that President Obama would not have time to meet Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister is in the U.S. later this month.

The two men did have a lengthy phone conversation, but some say what they really need is a marriage counselor.

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4:24am

Fri September 14, 2012
Middle East

Inciting Outrage, Film Spurs Delicate U.S. Response

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 11:43 am

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington Wednesday, Sept. 12 on the recent deaths of Americans in Libya.
Alex Brandon AP

As U.S. embassies and consulates face protests in the Muslim world over an anti-Islamic film, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is walking a fine line. She is distancing herself and the State Department from the video that has sparked anger among Muslims, but stressed the US commitment to free speech.

"To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible," she said Thursday in Washington, D.C. "It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."

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5:58pm

Wed September 12, 2012
Africa

U.S. Sends Marines To Libya After Consulate Attack

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We turn now to Washington for more reaction to this brazen attack. The Obama administration is sending a Marine anti-terrorism unit to bolster security in Libya. It's also taking precautions elsewhere. The stepped up security comes as the State Department mourns its losses. NPR's Michele Kelemen has that story.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Shock and sadness hovered over the State Department as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the devastating losses of four foreign service personnel.

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5:05pm

Mon September 10, 2012
Asia

Candidates Criticize China; Presidents Show Caution

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 6:26 pm

For more than three decades, presidential candidates have talked tough about China during the campaign season, but opted for more moderate policies as president. Republican nominee Mitt Romney, shown speaking in Colorado in July, accuses China of manipulating its currency in order to export its goods cheaply to the US.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

It has become a staple of U.S. presidential campaigns: Candidates talk about getting tough with China, only to adopt much more moderate positions once they are in office.

When Ronald Reagan ran against President Jimmy Carter in 1980, the challenger often blasted the incumbent for, in his words, "abandoning" Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with China.

"There will be no more abandonment of friends and allies by the United States of America and I want very much to send that message," Reagan said.

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3:25am

Mon September 10, 2012
Middle East

Next U.S. President Faces A Middle East 'In Turmoil'

Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 8:25 am

A rebel fighter fled after attacking a tank with a rocket-propelled grenade last week in Aleppo, Syria. The escalating Syrian conflict is among several issues in the Middle East that the next U.S. president must confront.
Manu Brabo AP

Foreign policy has not been a major focus of this election campaign, but whoever wins in November will have a messy inbox when it comes to the delicate tangle of issues in the Middle East.

For decades, the U.S. relied on authoritarian regimes to provide stability in the region. Now, it must deal with a new government in Egypt, an intensifying conflict in Syria, nervous allies in the Persian Gulf — and a major decision about Iran.

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6:08pm

Wed August 29, 2012
World

Often Isolated, Iran Hosts Huge International Summit

Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 6:44 pm

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hold talks at the Iranian president's office in Tehran on Wednesday.
Behrouz Mehri AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. and other Western countries are often trying to isolate Iran, but this week the country is in the international spotlight as it hosts a summit of 120 nonaligned nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Kim-moon decided to go, ignoring the advice of Israel and the U.S. He promised to deliver a tough message, but others are skeptical, arguing that his visit plays into the hands of the Iranians and to U.N. detractors in Washington.

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4:42am

Fri August 17, 2012
Middle East

U.N. To Appoint New Envoy To Syria

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 11:06 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The United Nations role in Syria is changing and so too is its personnel. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is expected to tap a veteran U.N. troubleshooter to take over from International Envoy Kofi Annan. At the same time, U.N. military observers are wrapping up their mission. NPR's Michele Kelemen has the latest.

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4:29pm

Mon August 6, 2012
The Veepstakes

Longshot Rice Would Lift Romney's Foreign Expertise

Originally published on Mon August 6, 2012 6:44 pm

Condoleezza Rice says her dream job would be NFL Commissioner. Would she want a VP post instead?
Ezra Shaw Getty Images

One way Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could bolster his foreign policy standing is by choosing an expert as his running mate. One name that's been circulating in the rumor mill is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice, who served under George W. Bush both as secretary of state and as national security adviser, says she's not interested in the job. Still, she created a lot of buzz in June when she spoke to Romney donors in Utah.

An Exceptional Career

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5:48pm

Tue July 31, 2012
Election 2012

Romney Tries To Shape Distinct Iran Policy

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 11:40 pm

Mitt Romney speaks in Jerusalem on Sunday, backing "any and all measures" to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Uriel Sinai Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says America's national security priority should be preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and he was talking tough about this in his recent stop in Jerusalem.

"History teaches with force and clarity that when the world's most despotic regimes secure the world's most destructive weapons, peace often gives way to oppression, to violence, or to devastating war," Romney said. "We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option."

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5:29am

Thu June 28, 2012
Middle East

Contact Group To Focus On Syrian Political Transition

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 12:34 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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5:45am

Tue June 19, 2012
Middle East

At G-20, Obama, Putin Discuss Fighting In Syria

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 9:48 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Obama disagrees with Russia's president Vladimir Putin over what to do about Syria. The U.S. thinks it's time for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to go. The Russians aren't so sure. The American and Russian leaders met yesterday during a summit of global leaders and they at least agreed that they prefer a political solution to Syria's problems. They hope to avoid a civil war. They just don't agree how to do it. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

5:47pm

Wed May 30, 2012
Middle East

Weighing The 'Yemen Option' For Syria

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 6:56 pm

In this photo from 2009, Syrian President Bashar Assad (left) stands with then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a welcoming ceremony for Saleh at the presidential palace in Damascus. As the violence continues in Syria, the U.S. and other countries are hoping to convince Assad to step down from power, as Saleh did.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration says that Syrian President Bashar Assad has forfeited his right to lead Syria, and grisly murders in the town of Houla over the weekend reinforce that argument.

But despite mounting pressure, Assad isn't budging. The U.S is now trying to enlist Russia to use its influence with the Syrian leader to follow the so-called Yemen model and move out of the way.

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5:36am

Tue May 22, 2012
Asia

Now In New York, What's Next For Chinese Activist?

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 6:29 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

A Chinese dissident is settling into life in New York. And Chen Guangcheng is thinking about those he left behind. His story captured worldwide attention when people helped him escape from house arrest to the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Those people remain within the reach of Chinese authorities. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

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4:14pm

Mon May 21, 2012
World

For Chinese Dissidents, Exile Can Mean Irrelevancy

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 8:21 pm

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing, arrive at an apartment complex in New York on Saturday. A number of Chinese activists have become far less prominent after leaving their homeland, but Chen hopes to continue his work and remain relevant in China.
Mladen Antonov AFP/Getty Images

U.S. diplomats were relieved this weekend when China allowed a prominent dissident, Chen Guangcheng, to fly to New York with his family.

China, too, is presumably happy that Chen is no longer in the country doing his advocacy work. Chinese exiles tend to fade into obscurity when they leave the country, and Beijing might be counting on that to happen with Chen.

But social media may be changing this equation.

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3:39am

Sun May 20, 2012
Asia

After Chinese Activist's Arrival, Rest And Relief

Originally published on Sun May 20, 2012 8:39 am

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife Yuan Weijing arrive at the New York University Village apartment complex in New York Saturday.
Mladen Antonov AFP/Getty Images

U.S. diplomats are breathing a sigh of relief Sunday after a human rights activist sheltered briefly by the U.S. embassy in Beijing was allowed to leave China and come to the United States. Chen Guangcheng arrived Saturday night with his wife and two children. He has a fellowship to study at New York University.

Chen appeared briefly before the cameras Saturday night in New York's Greenwich Village, where he will be living with his family and studying law.

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3:18am

Fri May 18, 2012
Africa

U.S. Serves Up New Food Security Effort In Africa

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 4:49 pm

A woman refills her bucket from a well in the south of Mauritania. The Sahel region, south of the Sahara, is facing a third season of drought.
Pablo Tosco AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration is announcing a major new initiative to boost investments in rural Africa in hopes of lifting millions out of poverty. Several African leaders are in Washington, D.C., for the announcement, which comes as President Obama hosts leaders of the Group of Eight in Maryland. Food security is a key agenda item.

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7:44am

Sun May 13, 2012
Opinion

Hillary Clinton: 'Incredible Rush' Will Have Its End

Originally published on Sun May 13, 2012 12:09 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee greet each other before a meeting in Kolkata, India, on May 7.
Dibyangshu Sarkar AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets questioned about her political future wherever she goes. She says she plans to get off the "high-wire" of politics after she wraps up her tenure as secretary of state, but her trips sometimes feel like she's campaigning — for America's image and for her own legacy. NPR's Michele Kelemen has this behind-the-scenes reporter's notebook of Clinton's most recent swing through Asia.

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