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 John Kerry and Hillary Clinton before him, tracking the Obama administration's broad foreign policy agenda from Asia to the Middle East. She also followed President Bush's 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, while also reporting on 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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Politics
4:05 am
Thu November 15, 2012

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

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

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

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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World
4:57 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

Obama Defends U.N. Envoy Amid Republican Attack

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

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

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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The Two-Way
6:50 am
Sun October 7, 2012

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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Middle East
7:43 am
Sat September 29, 2012

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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World
4:50 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Clinton: Al-Qaida May Be Linked To Libya Attack

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 5:24 am

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

Middle East
4:46 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Ahmadinejad Rails Against Israel In U.N. Speech

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 11:46 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Some called it awkward timing, others called it an outrage. Today, as Jews mark the high holy day of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, the president of Iran attacked Israel in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. His message came as no surprise. The U.S. stayed away, complaining about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repulsive slurs.

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Around the Nation
4:47 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Obama Calls For Tolerance At U.N. General Assembly

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 4:32 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. President Obama made an impassioned plea for understanding today, on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

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World
4:49 am
Tue September 25, 2012

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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Around the Nation
5:36 am
Sun September 23, 2012

For Myanmar Activist, A Welcome 40 Years In Waiting

Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi is presented with a U.S. Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony at the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 23, 2012 12:43 pm

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has made a remarkable transition from a detained human rights dissident to a member of Myanmar's parliament.

In her first trip to the U.S. in 40 years, Suu Kyi talked a lot about how she's learning to compromise with the former military men who kept her under house arrest for years.

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Asia
5:17 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi Makes First U.S. Trip In Decades

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:09 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi is on a landmark trip to the United States, her first in four decades. She is thanking Americans for being friends of the democracy movement in her homeland, Myanmar, also known as Burma. Now, she says, it's time for the U.S. to be friends with the whole country and consider easing sanctions.

The Nobel laureate made her case after a meeting at the State Department, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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Middle East
4:24 am
Fri September 14, 2012

Inciting Outrage, Film Spurs Delicate U.S. Response

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

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

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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Africa
5:58 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

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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Asia
5:05 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Candidates Criticize China; Presidents Show Caution

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

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

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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World
6:08 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Often Isolated, Iran Hosts Huge International Summit

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

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

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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Middle East
4:42 am
Fri August 17, 2012

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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The Veepstakes
5:07 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Longshot Rice Would Lift Romney's Foreign Expertise

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

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

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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Election 2012
5:41 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

Romney Tries To Shape Distinct Iran Policy

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

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

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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Middle East
4:29 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Pakistan Reopening Supply Lines Into Afghanistan

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 7:06 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Pakistan is re-opening key NATO supply lines to Afghanistan. The move came after the Obama administration again said it regrets the loss of life from errant U.S. airstrikes last November. Twenty-four Pakistani soldiers were killed in that incident.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the long diplomatic squabble ended up costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Middle East
5:45 am
Tue June 19, 2012

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.

Middle East
5:19 am
Fri June 8, 2012

Annan Pleads For More Help Resolving Syrian Crisis

Originally published on Mon June 11, 2012 3:03 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The U.N.'s envoy to Syria has not given up on his peace plan - even after another gruesome massacre of villagers; even after U.N. monitors were fired upon at a government checkpoint when they tried to investigate the latest killing. Instead, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan is asking for more help to stop the violence in Syria, from the West and from Syria's neighbors.

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Middle East
5:47 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Weighing The 'Yemen Option' For Syria

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

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

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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World
4:14 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

For Chinese Dissidents, Exile Can Mean Irrelevancy

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

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

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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Africa
3:18 am
Fri May 18, 2012

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

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

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

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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Asia
7:01 am
Thu May 3, 2012

U.S. Tries To Clarify What Chinese Activist Wants

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 10:31 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's talk about this more with NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. She's traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's in Beijing. And Michele, how did this seem to go so wrong so quickly?

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Asia
4:13 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Future Unclear For Escaped Chinese Activist

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 6:26 pm

The U.S. and China have agreed to a deal to allow the blind Chinese dissident who sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to resume a normal life. The issue had threatened to overshadow the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to China, probably her last in that role. Under a deal agreed to on Wednesday, the dissident has now left the embassy for a Beijing hospital to be reunited with his family.

Middle East
4:38 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Despite Deadline, No Letup In Syrian Fighting

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

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

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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Middle East
3:05 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Egypt's Moves Leave Democracy Advocate Bewildered

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

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

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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Middle East
12:01 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Obama, Netanyahu Differ On How To Deal With Iran

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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Asia
5:07 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

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

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

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

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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Middle East
5:02 am
Mon February 27, 2012

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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