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.

Pages

8:00am

Sat December 3, 2011
Reporter's Notebook

Clinton Tests Myanmar's Resolve Personally

Originally published on Sat December 3, 2011 3:31 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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4:00am

Fri December 2, 2011
Asia

Clinton Tests Myanmar's Commitment To Change

While on her visit to Myanmar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her home. She has been freed from house arrest after many years, and says she trusts the new government's changes enough to run for office in upcoming elections.

3:00pm

Wed November 30, 2011
World

Clinton Visits Myanmar

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Myanmar, also known as Burma, to see if the county's leaders are serious about political reform. Myanmar has long been under international sanctions because of the repressive nature of the military junta that held power until recently. But there are signs that a new civilian government is loosening the military's grip.

12:01am

Mon November 28, 2011
Asia

Clinton To Test Myanmar's Readiness For Reforms

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Asia this week will include stops in Myanmar and South Korea.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sets off for Asia Monday, and part of her trip will see her as the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Myanmar – formerly known as Burma.

Secretary Clinton says she's going to Myanmar to test the waters to see how committed the country's new leader is to reforms. She'll also meet with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is rejoining the political process in the country and who has been guiding U.S. policy, according to activist Aung Din.

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12:01am

Wed November 16, 2011
Middle East

For Arab Nations In Transition, U.S. Emphasizes Trade

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 5:31 am

Egyptians are seen working in a bakery in Cairo. The U.S. has been working on ways to help revive the economies of nations in transition, like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, while having limited resources available during tough economic times.
Mahmud Hams AFP/Getty Images

Just as the Arab uprisings were getting under way, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was warning that the region's foundations were sinking in the sand and that governments needed to respond to the needs of a young, educated and underemployed generation.

Now, she's come up with a new catchphrase.

"As tens of millions of young people enter the job market each year, we recognize that the Arab political awakening must also deliver an economic awakening," Clinton said. "And we are working to help societies create jobs to ensure that it does."

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5:18pm

Mon October 24, 2011
Africa

Activists Support U.S. Move Against Uganda Rebels

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 6:50 am

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, in a 2006 photo. The Obama administration has sent 100 troops to advise militaries in Uganda and neighboring countries that are battling Kony's forces.

STR AP

Human rights groups don't usually cheer military forays. But they have offered loud applause for the Obama administration's decision to send 100 military advisers to several countries in Africa to help those nations fight one of the continent's most notorious rebel groups, the Lord's Resistance Army.

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12:01am

Wed October 19, 2011
Middle East

Palestinians Try Alternate U.N. Route, Worrying U.S.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) hands over a formal letter for Palestine to be admitted as a state to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during the 66th U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 23. Now, the Palestinians are pursuing full membership in other U.N. agencies.

Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

With the Palestinian membership bid sitting — and likely going nowhere — in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians are trying another route to upgrade their international status.

They are applying for full membership in UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and may do the same with other specialized U.N. agencies.

And that has diplomats at the State Department increasingly concerned about what impact this may have on the U.S. position in the U.N. system.

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8:12am

Sat October 15, 2011
Middle East

U.S., Europe Shield Syrian Dissidents Abroad

Originally published on Sat October 15, 2011 3:28 pm

While much of the focus this past week has been on an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., diplomats and law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe also began to take aim at Syria for an alleged conspiracy to intimidate dissidents abroad.

Syrian-American Mohamad Soueid was indicted in the U.S. on charges he passed information about dissidents back to the country's intelligence services.

On Monday, a judge is set to decide whether he should remain in prison pending his trial.

An Agent Of The Syrian Government?

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2:32am

Wed October 12, 2011
Africa

Famine-Stricken Somalia Suffers From Aid Drought

Humanitarian groups are increasingly worried about the looming budget cuts in U.S. foreign assistance. They argue that lives are at stake, literally, in places like the Horn of Africa, which is suffering its worst drought in decades.

Raising public and private money for that has been a challenge in the current economic environment.

Hollywood stars and politicians have resorted to using the F word — in this case Famine — to get the attention of Americans about the humanitarian emergency in Somalia.

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4:00am

Wed October 5, 2011
Middle East

U.N. Resolution Against Syria Fails In Security Council

The U.N. Security Council has failed to agree on what to do about Syria's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters. Tuesday night, Russia and China vetoed a resolution condemning Syria, even after the text was watered down and stripped of any threats of sanctions.

5:16pm

Mon October 3, 2011
Middle East

Syrian Exiles Fear Long Reach Of Secret Police

Originally published on Mon October 3, 2011 5:51 pm

Protesters shout slogans against the Syrian government in front of the White House in July. A new report from Amnesty International documents more than 30 cases of Syrian activists living overseas whose activities have been monitored and whose families in Syria have been threatened.

Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Syrian exiles have been harassed and monitored at anti-government protests abroad, and their families back home have been threatened, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

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2:50pm

Thu September 29, 2011
Middle East

Americans Seek Answers As New Egypt Emerges

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr during a joint press conference in Washington on Wednesday. Amr sought to assure the U.S. that Egypt is moving toward democracy.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

As Egypt tries to figure out a path forward following its revolution, the country's foreign minister was in Washington this week attempting to reassure the Obama administration that all is going well.

For the Americans, the two big issues are the status of Egypt's elections and the state of Egypt's relations with Israel. There are unanswered questions on both fronts.

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4:26am

Wed September 28, 2011
Europe

Will U.S.-Russia Reset Survive A Putin Presidency?

Originally published on Wed September 28, 2011 1:59 pm

Russia's leading political party, United Russia, called for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) and and President Dmitry Medvedev to effectively switch jobs when Russia holds elections next year. Putin previously served as president from 1999-2008.
Yekaterina Shtukina AP

Vladimir Putin's planned run for the presidency next year comes as no surprise to U.S. policymakers. But it may make their lives more complicated and signal a return to more troubled times in U.S.-Russian relations.

Russia's dominant political party, United Russia, nominated Putin as its presidential candidate on Saturday. That virtually assures him that he will return to his old job, which he held from 1999 to 2008. The current president, Dmitry Medvedev, will be the candidate to replace Putin as prime minister.

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4:44am

Sun September 25, 2011
Africa

South Sudan Seeks U.N. Help For 'Difficult Journey'

When President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he held up the example of South Sudan as the right way to join the world body — through a peace process and an independence vote.

"One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt," he said, "but the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination."

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4:00am

Thu September 22, 2011
Middle East

Obama Tries To Nudge Palestinians, Israel Back To Peace Talks

President Obama held separate meetings yesterday with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Obama said there is no shortcut to Palestinian statehood. The administration is trying to revive peace negotiations.

4:00am

Wed September 21, 2011
Middle East

U.N. Membership Could Give Palestinians A Diplomatic Tool

Palestinians say they are undeterred and plan to seek full U.N. membership as a state on territories Israel occupied in the 1967 war. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to present his application when he speaks to the U.N. on Friday. The issue is dominating high level meetings as countries scramble to try to revive a peace process that has failed for decades.

3:54pm

Tue September 20, 2011
Conflict In Libya

President Obama Praises Libya's Political Transition

Originally published on Tue September 20, 2011 7:20 pm

President Obama meets with Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the Libyan Transitional National Council, at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.
Allan Tannenbaum-Pool Getty Images

President Obama met Libya's interim leader Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly and held up the country as a model of what the U.N. can do to protect civilians from atrocities.

Obama also pledged continued support and encouraged Libya's new leaders to keep their promises to forge a just, democratic society.

Libyan rebels have yet to find ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi and fighting continues in the country. Still, Obama went to the meeting with a hopeful message.

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4:47am

Mon September 19, 2011
Middle East

Obama Pressured At Home To Do More For Israel

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 1:35 pm

Israel's most vocal supporters in the U.S. have long complained that the United Nations is a bastion of anti-Israeli sentiment, and this year's General Assembly debate could be worse than ever.

Palestinians are seeking U.N. membership as a state even though there's no peace deal with Israel. Israel is also under diplomatic pressure from regional powers Turkey and Egypt.

Gabriela Shalev was Israel's ambassador to the United Nations until last year, and as world leaders start gathering for this high-level General Assembly debate, she's sounding quite nervous.

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5:29am

Sat September 17, 2011
World

U.S. Underwhelmed With Emerging Powers At U.N.

It's the time of year when world leaders converge at the United Nations headquarters in New York. And this year, there will be a lot of talk about multilateral diplomacy — a priority for the Obama administration since it came to office.

Obama's team has courted the world's rising powers, even publicly backing India's hopes to one day be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. But now that India, along with South Africa and Brazil, have rotating seats on the council, U.S. officials and many human rights activists complain they're not living up to expectations.

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4:38pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Middle East

Palestinian Plan Puts U.S. In A Bind

A Palestinian flag is raised in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. The Palestinians are expected to seek statehood at the United Nations next week.
John Thys AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration is scrambling to head off what it fears will be a diplomatic train wreck at the United Nations next week.

After years of gridlock in Mideast negotiations, the Palestinians plan to seek U.N. membership as a state on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war. That territory includes the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and the plan would go through the Security Council, where the U.S. has already promised to use its veto.

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3:00pm

Fri September 2, 2011
Middle East

U.N. Review Of Israeli Flotilla Raid Reopens Wounds

The U.N.'s review of an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish flotilla last year was intended to help resolve the matter, but its release Friday only seemed to reopen the wound.

While Israel was pleased that the panel found its blockade of Gaza legitimate, Turkey has expelled Israel's ambassador and downgraded relations.

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3:27pm

Thu August 25, 2011
Middle East

Iranian Exile Group Lobbies To Get Off Terrorist List

Supporters of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, an Iranian exile group, demonstrate in front of the U.S. Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands, on Aug. 4, 2009. The U.S. State Department is reviewing the group's status on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
Valerie Kuypers AFP/Getty Images

An Iranian exile group is ramping up its lobbying campaign to get off a U.S. terrorist list, and the issue has sparked a fierce debate among foreign policy experts about the wisdom of such a move.

Supporters of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq see it as a potentially useful group in countering Iran. It has provided the U.S. information about Iran's nuclear program, for instance. Others see it as a dangerous cult and warn that taking it off the Foreign Terrorist Organization list would undercut peaceful Iranian dissidents, who want nothing to do with the MEK.

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4:57pm

Tue August 23, 2011
Africa

A New Obstacle To Normal Relations For Sudan, U.S.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir speaks of the capital Khartoum on July 12. Sudan says it should be taken off the U.S. terrorism list, but Washington says it is concerned about new fighting in the south of the country.
Ashraf Shazly AFP/Getty Images

When Sudan allowed South Sudan to become an independent nation last month, it hoped this would put an end to years of friction with the United States.

More specifically, Sudan desperately wanted to be removed from Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism and get out from under the many sanctions that come along with that designation.

But now the U.S. and the United Nations are raising concerns about fighting, and possible atrocities, near the border between Sudan and South Sudan.

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5:36pm

Tue August 16, 2011
U.S.

Hillary Clinton: U.S. Diplomacy Is Stretched Thin

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the bruising budget battles in Washington are "casting a pall" over US diplomacy abroad and may hurt America's ability to influence events at a crucial moment in the Middle East.

Clinton joined Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the National Defense University in Washington on Tuesday to appeal to Congress to come up with a budget deal that doesn't undercut U.S. national security interests.

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11:12pm

Sat August 13, 2011
World

Famine In Somalia Also Taking Toll On Al-Shabaab

Displaced Somalis waits in a queue for food-aid rations on August 11, 2011 at an IDP camp in Mogadishu. The United Nations has officially declared famine in Somalia for the first time this century.
MUSTAFA ABDI AFP/Getty Images

How can you feed starving people without feeding an insurgency as well? That is one of the challenges the Obama administration faces in providing aid to Somalia.

As the U.S. and other donors scramble to help Somalis survive a famine, some experts see an opportunity of sorts. The drought, they say, seems to be starving the Islamist militia group al-Shabaab of resources, limiting its ability to wreak havoc in Somalia.

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8:14am

Sat July 30, 2011
Africa

Conflict Zone Slows Aid For Somalia's Famine Victims

U.S. officials are sounding increasingly frustrated that they and other big donors can't mount the kind of humanitarian operation that is needed in Somalia. Violence in Mogadishu this week is just the latest of their troubles.

Aid work is never easy, but the troubles add up quickly in a conflict zone like Somalia, says Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz.

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2:43pm

Thu July 28, 2011
Middle East

Worries Grow Over Palestinian U.N. Bid

Originally published on Mon August 1, 2011 11:46 am

Negotiating Palestinian statehood was an early priority for President Obama's administration. But these days, U.S. diplomats are spending much of their time trying to stop the Palestinians from going to the United Nations to try to win diplomatic recognition.

Palestinians say they have no other choice, since negotiations are deadlocked.

Some former Israeli officials came to Washington this week to urge the U.S. to help.

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5:09am

Wed July 27, 2011
Africa

Libyan Diplomat Takes On A New, Yet Familiar, Role

Ali Aujali (second from right) listens to President Obama speak at the State Department in May. Aujali was Moammar Gadhafi's ambassador to the U.S., but resigned after the Libyan uprising began. He now represents the rebels' Transitional National Council.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Now that the U.S. has recognized the rebel government in Libya, the Transitional National Council, as it is known, wants access to the country's frozen assets. The rebel representative in Washington, D.C., also wants his office back; until earlier this year, Ali Aujali was the Libyan ambassador, but he hasn't been able to get back into his office for months.

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3:56pm

Thu July 14, 2011
World

U.S., Allies Optimistic Gadhafi's 'Days Are Numbered'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with the Contact Group on a Libya road map on May 5, 2011, in Rome.
Giorgio Cosulich Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top diplomats are gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, this week to talk about Libya amid fresh optimism that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be looking for a way out.

French officials have said that the Gadhafi regime is "sending messengers everywhere" to explore ways to end the conflict. U.S. officials have suggested that his regime is suffering from low morale and is running out of supplies.

Before setting off to Istanbul, Clinton told reporters that she's seen "contradictory signals" from Gadhafi's camp.

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3:14pm

Mon June 13, 2011
Africa

Clinton Pushes African Nations To Break With Gadhafi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday urged African countries to break with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and pressure him to stop attacking civilians. During a trip to Ethiopia, she also called on the north and south of Sudan to quickly resolve their differences – as Southern Sudan prepares to become the world's newest country.

Clinton, the first secretary of state to visit the African Union's headquarters, came with a message that regional leaders should learn something from the Arab uprisings.

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