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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Middle East
4:04 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

In Rubble Of Middle East Peace Talks, Kerry Seeks Way Forward

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 8:32 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is a challenging time for Secretary of State John Kerry. His Middle East peace process has collapsed. He's also taking a lot of heat for suggesting that Israel could become an apartheid state if it doesn't negotiate with the Palestinians on two states for two peoples. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on how Kerry is trying to dig out.

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Asia
4:17 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Out Of North Korea, A Sexist Rant Against South's President

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 10:02 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

North Korea is offering its view of President Obama's trip to Asia and it isn't pretty. The official North Korean news agency used especially harsh language about South Korea's president who hosted Obama last week. By the way, we're about to hear more about that harsh language, so consider this a head's up if any children are listening. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

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Middle East
7:51 am
Sat April 26, 2014

Obama: May Be Time For A Pause In Mideast Peace Talks

Originally published on Sat April 26, 2014 11:30 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The Obama administration's recent efforts to try to steer Israel and Palestine into - and the Palestinians into a lasting peace accord have failed. President Obama isn't giving up, but as he acknowledges, it may be time for a pause. He says Israelis and Palestinians have both taken unhelpful steps in recent weeks and neither side looks ready to compromise. This is a major setback for Secretary of State John Kerry, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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Middle East
5:03 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Syria Is On Track To Meet Chemical Weapons Deadline

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 8:09 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This is about as close as we're going to get to good news out of Syria. The country is on track, we're told, to meet a deadline to give up its chemical weapons arsenal. The most dangerous chemicals in Syria's declared stockpile are supposed to be removed by Sunday, yet Syria now faces suspicion that it's using less toxic chemicals, possibly chlorine. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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World
5:45 am
Sat April 5, 2014

Taunt Or Miscalculation? Iran's Provocative Pick For U.N. Envoy

Iranian students climb over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution, Nov. 4, 1979. The students went on to seize the embassy staff, and hold 52 of them as hostages for 444 days.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat April 5, 2014 11:18 am

Iran's reported decision to name Hamid Aboutalebi as its ambassador to the United Nations has ignited anger in the U.S. That's because the diplomat was part of the student group that held Americans hostage in 1979. Now, dozens of lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to deny him a visa.

It's the latest sign of just how difficult it will be for Washington and Tehran to overcome decades of mistrust.

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Europe
6:38 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Russia Cautions Against A Return Of Cold War Rhetoric

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 1:04 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Ever since Russia annexed Crimea, NATO has been watching and waiting for Russia's next moves. This morning, NATO's military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said Russia has the forces it needs along Ukraine's border to carryout a full scale invasion of the eastern part of that country within a matter of days. Hoping to exert some pressure, NATO announced its suspending what it calls practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia.

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News
4:21 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Russia Votes To Annex Crimea, As The West Looks On

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 4:50 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin moved today to overturn recent history by reclaiming Crimea for Russia. Putin signed a treaty to annex Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and gave a rousing speech to parliament laying out his case. He is also blasted the West for trying to frighten him with sanctions.

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Europe
6:35 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Yatsenyuk Appeals For International Aid For Ukraine

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 7:44 am

Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk takes his case to the United Nations on Thursday, as he tries to build support for his country in its territorial conflict with Russia.

Europe
5:04 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Ukraine's Interim Prime Minister To Visit White House

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 7:32 am

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.

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Europe
4:22 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Pending Russian Response, Kerry's Travel Plans Are Up In The Air

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:59 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour with the latest on the standoff over Ukraine. Today, Russian forces seized the Ukrainian naval post, military hospital and a missile unit in Crimea. At the same time, Moscow accused Kiev of encouraging right-wing groups and creating lawlessness in eastern Ukraine. This all complicates things on the diplomatic front.

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News
4:35 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Kerry And Russian Diplomat Talk Crimea In Paris

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:42 pm

Transcript

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Yesterday, he was in Ukraine. Today, it's Paris. Secretary of State John Kerry is logging a lot of miles these days, trying to find a diplomatic solution to the unfolding crisis in Crimea. In Paris, he met with Russia's foreign minister. Kerry said the discussions were substantive. Diplomatic sources tell NPR the results were inconclusive. But at least the talking had begun.

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News
4:18 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Kerry's In Kiev And He Comes Bearing Gifts — One Billion Of Them

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 6:31 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Kiev Tuesday, offering $1 billion in American loan guarantees and promises of technical assistance to the new Ukrainian government.

Parallels
4:58 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Syria On Track To Become World's Largest Source Of Refugees

Masses of refugees wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk camp on Jan. 31 in Damascus, Syria.
United Nation Relief and Works Agency/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 10:35 pm

A photo from Syria is grabbing the world's attention: a sea of people lining up for food amid the rubble of a Palestinian refugee camp inside Syria.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia was so moved by the image, he took to the Senate floor, saying "a country of 23 million people, a proud country, is being transformed before our eyes to a land of rubble, skeletons, refugees and ghosts."

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Parallels
3:25 am
Fri February 28, 2014

Secretary Of State Kerry Says Ukraine Is Not A 'Cold War Story'

An anti-Yanukovych protester walks past a barricade in Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, in Kiev, Ukraine, on Wednesday.
Emilio Morenatti AP

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 10:49 am

Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, emerged Friday to give a news conference on Russian soil, not far from the Ukraine border. Russia is not only giving Yanukovych shelter — it's also carrying out military exercises that have raised alarms in Washington.

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Parallels
4:49 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

U.S. Has Little Leverage To Stop Political Violence In Venezuela

A demonstrator confronts riot policemen during an anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela's capital, on Feb. 22.
Raul Arboleda AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

The escalating political crisis in Venezuela has set off alarms in Washington. But there's little the U.S. has been able to do, aside from criticize the jailing of opposition figures or the rising death toll as protesters continue to take to the streets, blaming the government for high inflation and crime.

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Europe
4:00 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Will Ukraine Do What It Takes To Unlock International Aid?

Ukrainians line up to get their money from a bank machine in the western city of Lviv last week. Clashes in Independence Square in Kiev and the resulting political turmoil caused a financial panic.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 8:55 pm

The United States, hoping to avert economic chaos in Ukraine, is prepared to send financial support to supplement aid from the International Monetary Fund, the White House said on Monday.

"The United States, working with partners around the world, stands ready to provide support for Ukraine as it takes the reforms it needs to, to get back to economic stability," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.

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Europe
4:52 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

U.S., Allies Urge All Sides In Ukraine To Pull Back From Brink

Anti-government protesters throw stones during clashes with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the Ukraine's current unrest, on Wednesday. The deadly clashes have drawn sharp reactions from Washington and generated talk of possible European Union sanctions.
Efrem Lukatsky AP

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 10:38 pm

Foreign ministers from France, Germany and Poland are traveling to Ukraine in hopes of persuading all sides in the country's recent violence to pull back from the brink and restart a political dialogue. The U.S. is also urging the country's president to calm the situation and restart a dialogue with the opposition. But the U.S. and Europe seem to have few levers of influence, as the crisis spins out of control.

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World
6:23 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

More Ambassador Posts Are Going To Political Appointees

TV producer Colleen Bell, shown here in a 2013 photo, was a big donor for President Obama before she was nominated to become ambassador to Hungary. Obama has chosen more political appointees than his predecessors.
Handout Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 6:05 pm

The nominee to be U.S. ambassador to, say, Hungary should be able to explain what the U.S. strategic interests are in that country — right?

But Colleen Bell, a soap opera producer and President Obama's appointee to be U.S. envoy to that European country, struggled to answer that simple question during her recent confirmation hearing.

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Europe
4:59 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Leaked Ukraine Phone Call Puts U.S. Credibility On The Line

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:55 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Middle East
4:57 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

Kerry: 'No Other Alternative' To Ending Violence In Syria

Originally published on Sun January 12, 2014 6:50 pm

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

The U.S. and other world powers have agreed on a plan with Iran to start rolling back parts of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief. Secretary of State John Kerry says the deal goes into effect later this month.

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Africa
3:33 am
Fri December 20, 2013

U.N. Ambassador Laments Misery In Central African Republic

U.S. Ambassador to the Unitied Nations Samantha Power (right) listens to Lucy Mandazuto at a community hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, on Thursday. Mandazuto was wounded in sectarian violence.
Jerome Delay AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 11:13 am

You don't have to venture far to see the misery caused by the latest crisis in the Central African Republic.

On the edge of the airport in the capital Bangui, tens of thousands of people are sleeping out in the open with no basic services. It's here that Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meets Martine Kutungai with her husband, a pastor, and their eight children.

Kutungai says she's terrified to go home because of the Seleka — Muslim rebels who toppled the government in March.

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Africa
5:03 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

U.S. Envoy: Time For Intervention In Central African Republic

Soldiers from Burundi arrive at the airport in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, on Dec. 15 to join the African Union and French efforts to restore security in the troubled nation.
Sia Kambou AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 7:57 pm

The Obama administration's ambassador to the U.N. says this is a pivotal moment for the Central African Republic and time for the international community to take steps to prevent further atrocities there.

Samantha Power, a former journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is well-known as an advocate for humanitarian intervention. How she and the Obama administration handle the conflict in the CAR is a major test of that.

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Parallels
5:11 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Will Progress On Nuke Talks Mean More Engagement From Iran?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Nov. 24 in Geneva, after the announcement of a deal halting parts of Iran's nuclear program.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 9:01 pm

The U.S. and other major powers have been holding historic negotiations with Iran to try to curb that country's nuclear program. But Washington still has many other concerns about Iranian behavior. And while some diplomats may hope to build on the nuclear talks to push Iran to play a more constructive role in the region, experts remain skeptical.

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says there are a couple of ways to look at the negotiations with Iran.

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Middle East
5:12 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Kerry's New Mission: Convince Congress To Take Iran Deal

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 5:56 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry is back in Washington to defend the proposed nuclear deal with Iran to skeptical members of Congress. He and his colleagues from other major powers failed to reach a deal with Iran during talks over the weekend in Geneva. Iran blames France's hard line for blowing up the deal, though Kerry has tried to downplay that.

Africa
5:21 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

DRC Rebels' Surrender Could Mark New Chapter In U.N. Peacekeeping

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 5:52 pm

There's been a rare bit of good news in Eastern Congo this month. One of the rebel groups that have terrorized civilians in the mineral rich part of the the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed to end its rebellion. There's still a lot of work to do to disarm the M23 and to keep other rebel movements in check. But this small victory is a boost for U.N. peacekeepers, who are under a new, tougher mandate to protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some experts wonder if this could be a new model for peacekeeping.

Parallels
3:17 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Syria's Moderate Rebels Fight A Battle On Two Fronts

A Syrian fighter from the Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra inspects a resident's identification papers at a checkpoint in Aleppo on Oct. 26. Syria's Islamist fighters are generally better funded than their more moderate counterparts.
Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 5:28 pm

Like many Syrian exiles, Murhaf Jouejati, a professor at National Defense University, is frustrated by U.S. policy toward Syria. He says there's been only a trickle of U.S. aid to the secular, nationalist opposition in Syria, while the Islamists have no trouble raising money through their networks in the Arab world.

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World
6:12 am
Sun October 20, 2013

Saudi Act Of Protest Stuns U.N., And Some Observers

The U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons last month in New York. Last week, Saudi Arabia turned down a chance to take a seat on the Council.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 8:58 am

Known for quiet diplomacy, Saudi Arabia is taking an unusual and very public step to protest the international community's failure to resolve the crisis in Syria and other issues that interest Riyadh.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia was elected to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, which the Saudi ambassador to the U.N. initially called a defining moment in his nation's history.

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Middle East
4:50 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Experts Debate How Best To Remove Syria's Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 10:23 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

Let's go deeper now into one issue Secretary of State John Kerry raised in my interview with him earlier in the program. The secretary, along with his Russian counterpart, got Syria's Bashar al-Assad to agree to hand over his vast store of chemical weapons. Now, Kerry is suggesting those stockpiles be taken out of Syria.

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Middle East
4:41 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Netanyahu Urges World To Keep Pressure On Iran

Originally published on Sun October 6, 2013 9:04 am

A day after a meeting with President Obama, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes center stage at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. He will likely dwell on Iran's suspect nuclear program and warn the world community against being taken in by Tehran's recent charm offensive.

Middle East
5:30 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Iran, U.S. Can Manage Differences, Rouhani Tells U.N.

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 6:25 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. President Obama never did meet Iran's president Hasan Rouhani at the United Nations, as many expected. But Iran's new president gave a speech calling for results-oriented talks to clear up concern about what he called Iran's peaceful nuclear program. NPR's Michele Kelemen was there.

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