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
5:25 am
Sat November 17, 2012

Secretary Of State Speculation Turns Up Heat On Rice

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

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

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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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
4:38 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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National Security
4:32 am
Wed October 10, 2012

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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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
5:04 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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Middle East
5:15 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Mideast Violence Prompts Calls For New U.S. Policy

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

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

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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Middle East
6:05 am
Sat September 15, 2012

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

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

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

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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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
5:39 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

U.S. Sends Marines To Libya After Consulate Attack

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 5:58 pm

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
5:29 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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Middle East
3:25 am
Mon September 10, 2012

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

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

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

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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World
5:56 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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The Veepstakes
4:29 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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Middle East
4:47 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

With Annan Out, U.S. Is Pressured To Act In Syria

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 6:06 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

What now? That's the question many in and out of Syria are asking, one day after Kofi Annan announced he's quitting as special envoy to Syria. Annan blamed his resignation, in part, on a divided U.N. Security Council. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, activists are now calling on Washington to work around the U.N. and do more to support Syria's rebels.

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Election 2012
4:58 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

On Iran, Romney's Plan Resembles Obama's Reality

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
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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Asia
5:36 am
Tue May 22, 2012

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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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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Asia
3:39 am
Sun May 20, 2012

After Chinese Activist's Arrival, Rest And Relief

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

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

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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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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Opinion
7:44 am
Sun May 13, 2012

Hillary Clinton: 'Incredible Rush' Will Have Its End

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

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

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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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
4:54 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Activist's Escape Complicates Clinton's China Visit

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

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

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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Politics
3:21 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Bill Could Complicate U.S.-Russia Relations

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 6:06 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

Bipartisanship is rare on Capitol Hill these days but one bill is gaining support from both Republicans and Democrats. There's a problem, though, the Obama administration is leery of it.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the bill involves human rights abuses in Russia. And U.S. diplomats are worried it could complicate relations at a time when the U.S. needs Russia's backing on a range of issues.

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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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Africa
5:21 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

For The Two Sudans, The Threat Of War Looms

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

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

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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