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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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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4:16pm

Fri May 4, 2012
Asia

U.S. Supports Chinese Activist's Bid To Study Abroad

Originally published on Fri May 4, 2012 6:04 pm

News of a possible way out of the diplomatic impasse over Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has again overshadowed other events in Beijing. The Chinese Foreign ministry says Chen might be allowed to leave China to study abroad. Meanwhile about 200 U.S. officials from the State Department and the U.S. Treasury are in China to discuss other matters vital to the U.S.-China relationship.

4:54pm

Mon April 30, 2012
Asia

Activist's Escape Complicates Clinton's China Visit

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 6:20 pm

Chinese paramilitary police patrol outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on April 28. Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist who fled house arrest in his rural Chinese village, is reported to be under the protection of U.S. officials. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to China for what was supposed to be a routine visit.
Alexander F. Yuan AP

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sets off Monday night on a trip that was supposed to be a routine checkup on U.S.-China relations.

Instead, she is flying into a firestorm after a high-profile dissident's daring escape from house arrest. The blind legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, is now believed to be under U.S. protection — and diplomats are scrambling to try to resolve the issue quickly.

On her first visit to China as secretary of state in 2009, Clinton emphasized other issues besides human rights.

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4:38pm

Tue April 10, 2012
Middle East

Despite Deadline, No Letup In Syrian Fighting

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 5:26 pm

Syrian President Bashar Assad was supposed to pull the military out of cities by Tuesday, but more attacks were reported. Some Syrians rallied in support of Assad and his Baath Party in the capital, Damascus, on Saturday.
Bassem Tellawi AP

After more than a year of fighting in Syria, the peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan appeared to be the most serious effort yet to end the bloodletting.

But on a day when Syrian army tanks were supposed to pull back from Syrian cities, opposition groups said there were fresh attacks Tuesday in the central city of Homs and several other cities.

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5:21pm

Wed March 28, 2012
Africa

For The Two Sudans, The Threat Of War Looms

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 2:14 pm

Sudanese troops stand next to a burnt-out military vehicle in the oil center of Heglig after clashes with South Sudanese forces Wednesday. Recent fighting has raised fears of a renewed war.
AFP/Getty Images

Less than a year after they formally split, Sudan and South Sudan appear to be in danger of going to war.

Fighting spilled over the disputed border this week, scuttling a planned summit intended to resolve issues lingering from South Sudan's independence last July.

International diplomats are trying to get that summit back on track and deal with a humanitarian crisis that is looming in the region.

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3:00pm

Wed March 21, 2012
Middle East

U.N. Security Council Approves Annan's Syria Plan

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Former U.N. Security General Kofi Annan got a boost today from the Security Council as he struggles to resolve the crisis in Syria. The council endorsed his peace proposals. They call for a daily two-hour pause in fighting to allow humanitarian aid in and for a political dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

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5:58am

Fri March 16, 2012
Afghanistan

Peace Deal Process With Taliban Stalls

Originally published on Fri March 16, 2012 9:24 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

We're learning more about the American staff sergeant accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan. Last night, his lawyer said the soldier did not want to go to Afghanistan, his fourth deployment for the Army. He had been wounded twice and he didn't think he was healthy enough to deploy. The attorney didn't release the soldier's name, but did say he was the father of two young children and added that the soldier's family was totally shocked by the allegations against him.

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3:05am

Thu March 8, 2012
Middle East

Egypt's Moves Leave Democracy Advocate Bewildered

Originally published on Fri March 9, 2012 4:00 pm

Sam LaHood of the International Republican Institute is one of 19 American democracy promoters who face charges of fomenting unrest in Egypt. Here, he is shown last month at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Courtesy IRI

Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, spent four weeks holed up at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, sleeping on an air mattress part of the time and trying to fathom why the Egyptians wanted to prosecute him and his pro-democracy colleagues.

Eventually, LaHood's organization and others with employees facing prosecution paid more than $300,000 a person in bail to get them off the Egyptian travel ban, and the U.S. government flew most of them home.

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12:01am

Tue March 6, 2012
Middle East

Obama, Netanyahu Differ On Timeline Of Iran Strike

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference on Monday in Washington, D.C. He said he would never let his "people live in the shadow of annihilation."
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

In several hours of talks, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to have different timelines and red lines on the issue of Iran's nuclear program: Obama said he prefers diplomacy and pressure; the Israeli leader made clear his country reserves the right to attack pre-emptively, saying Israel must remain master of its fate.

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5:07pm

Wed February 29, 2012
Asia

N. Korea To Halt Nuclear Tests; U.S. To Provide Aid

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 8:34 pm

North Korea's military fires missiles during a drill in this undated photo released Oct. 6, 2010, by the Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has agreed to stop nuclear activities and allow inspections, while the U.S. says it will provide food aid to the country.
Korean Central News Agency AP

North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and missile tests, and the U.S. says it will provide food aid. The agreement should set the stage for a new round of nuclear disarmament talks. But analysts caution this is a small first step.

U.S. State Department officials returned from three days of talks in Beijing with a deal meant to improve the atmosphere for a resumption of so-called six-party nuclear disarmament talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the deal in Congress on Wednesday.

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5:02am

Mon February 27, 2012
Middle East

Clinton: How Do We Help Syrians Defend Themselves?

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 8:17 pm

Just a few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tunis, Tunisia, meeting her counterparts from dozens of countries and issuing an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad to silence his guns and allow in humanitarian aid.

While in Morocco, before flying home to Washington, D.C., Clinton talked to NPR's Michele Kelemen.

Syrian tanks continue to batter homes, and no aid is getting in. So what are allies of the Syrian people to do?

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