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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World
4:04 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

Russian Rockers Visit Washington To Lobby For Band Mates

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 6:29 pm

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot came to Washington to meet members of the Obama administration and Congress. The feminist activist band is hoping to persuade U.S. officials to visit two of their members in Russian penal colonies to highlight their plight.

Politics
2:46 am
Fri June 7, 2013

Sen. McCain Urges U.S. To Do More For Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 12:32 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Sen. John McCain is pushing the Obama administration to do more for rebels fighting the Syrian government. This follows his trip last week to opposition-held territory in Syria. McCain warns that a failure to act could send the Middle East deep into sectarian conflict.

His comments come as both the rebels, and the likelihood of planned peace talks, appear to be losing ground.NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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Politics
3:19 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Samantha Power Picked To Take Over For Rice At U.N.

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 4:53 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Now let's take a look at the woman nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations when Susan Rice steps down. Samantha Power has been working behind the scenes in the Obama administration on U.N.-related issues. Before that she was an activist and author of an influential book about preventing genocide.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, Power's supporters see her as the conscience in the White House.

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Asia
3:16 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

Can U.S. And China Carve Out Peaceful Future In Asia?

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 4:19 pm

As President Obama meets his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, many experts hope this will be the start of something new: regular high-level contacts. History shows it is always dangerous when established powers face rising powers.

Middle East
4:03 am
Wed June 5, 2013

Egyptian Court Verdict Complicates Relations With Washington

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 7:20 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Obama administration is expressing deep concern about guilty verdicts in Egypt against 43 people who were working on democracy programs in the country. Sixteen of them are Americans, though most left Egypt when the charges were brought against them. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that issue is one of many complicating Washington's relations with Cairo.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Charles Dunne wasn't even in Egypt when he first heard about the charges against him and he never received anything official from the court.

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Asia
3:28 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Myanmar Leader's Visit To Washington A Historic Occasion

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 7:00 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For the first time in nearly five decades, the president of Myanmar paid a visit to the White House. Thein Sein has overseen some dramatic changes in his country, long a pariah on the world stage. And the Obama administration has been trying to encourage those reforms by easing sanctions. President Obama himself went to Myanmar, also known as Burma, last year. But as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, there is still a lot of work to do.

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Middle East
2:24 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Obama, Erdogan To Discuss Syria's Conflict Spilling Into Turkey

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 10:57 am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets President Obama at the White House on Thursday. Their talks will focus on the Syrian conflict. Erdogan has been pushing the U.S. to do more to resolve a conflict.

Middle East
2:49 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Plans Proceed For Another International Meeting On Syria

Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 11:19 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 got a warning this week about Syria. It's a warning that the country's civil war seems unlikely to end very soon on its own.

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NPR Story
3:29 am
Sat May 11, 2013

Kerry's Agenda: Priorities Emerge With Travel

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 6:29 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been in the Middle East, Rome and Russia this week trying to find some kind of diplomatic end to Syria's civil war. He's also been trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Mr. Kerry has been the U.S. secretary of state for just over 100 days, spending more than a third of that time overseas.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on how his tenure at the State Department seems to be shaping up.

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World
2:55 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Kerry Appeals To Russia To Help End Syrian Civil War

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 8:56 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.

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Europe
1:44 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Kerry's Visit To Russia A Chance To Talk Syria, Mend Fences

Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Russia on Monday — a trip he calls "long overdue."
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 7:47 am

Secretary of State John Kerry sets off for what he calls "a long overdue" trip to Russia on Monday, and Syria is likely to top the agenda.

But U.S.-Russian relations are frosty these days. The U.S. is imposing targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators, while Moscow is preventing American families from adopting Russian children.

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Middle East
3:00 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

U.N. Aid Workers Not Prepared For Chemical Weapons In Syria

Originally published on Mon April 29, 2013 3:48 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The head of the U.N. refugee agency says aid workers are not prepared for the possibility of chemical warfare in Syria. And as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, that's just one of many concerns relief groups face in what they're calling the worst humanitarian disaster in decades.

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Middle East
11:52 am
Fri April 26, 2013

U.S. Wary As Qatar Ramps Up Support Of Syrian Rebels

President Obama meets with the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in the Oval Office on Tuesday. The emir is among a series of visiting Middle East leaders urging the U.S. to take a greater role in the Syrian conflict.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 2:47 pm

President Obama has been hosting a series of visitors from the Middle East, and all of them have been urging the U.S. to get more involved in Syria.

They have included the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose country has been arming rebel forces in Syria. Obama wants to see such aid go to moderates — but that requires more cooperation with partners like Qatar. Problem is, they don't always see eye to eye.

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Middle East
5:19 am
Wed April 24, 2013

Syria Accused Of Repeatedly Using Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Sun April 28, 2013 7:51 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. On one level, this story is about nothing more than a bit of diplomatic jargon.

GREENE: On a deeper level, though, the stakes could not be higher. President Obama's administration told Syria that using chemical weapons against Syrian rebels is a red line.

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Middle East
3:12 am
Sun April 14, 2013

Syria Conflict Brings Middle East Leaders To White House

A Syrian rebel patrols the area in the Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern city of Aleppo, on Thursday.
Dimitar Dilkoff AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 1:54 pm

In the coming weeks, the Obama administration plays host to the leaders of several Middle Eastern nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan.

They are coming, in part, to register their concerns about the ongoing violence in Syria and to nudge the Obama administration to do more to tip the balance in favor of the rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

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Afghanistan
2:43 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Kerry In Afghanistan To Smooth Over Latest Disputes

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 8:02 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Afghanistan today. He's there smoothing over the latest dispute with President Hamid Karzai. The trip was unannounced, and Kerry arrived at a big moment, just as the U.S. was formally handing over Bagram prison to Afghan authorities. The fate of detainees is one of many thorny issues complicating relations with the Karzai government, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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Iraq
2:47 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Kerry Makes Stop In Iraq

Originally published on Sun March 31, 2013 6:23 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Secretary of State John Kerry is putting his diplomatic skills to the test this week. He is dealing with some difficult partners and trying to revive Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. Kerry spent the day yesterday in Baghdad. He's nudging the Iraqi government to stop letting Iran use Iraqi air space to send weapons into Syria. The United States does not have much leverage, however, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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Middle East
2:56 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

U.S. Stands Firm On Decision Not To Arm Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 5:17 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

France and Britain want the European Union to lift an arms embargo on Syria. The reason? They want to help Syria's rebels topple Bashar al-Assad's regime. The U.S. says it won't stand in the way. But so far, the Obama administration has decided not to arm Syrian rebels and focus instead on diplomacy. Many analysts see this as a role reversal, as NPR's Michele Kelemen explains.

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Asia
3:20 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

U.N. Security Council Hits North Korea With More Sanctions After Nuclear Test

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 4:13 pm

The U.N. Security Council agreed to tighten sanctions against North Korea on Thursday as punishment for its recent nuclear test. The Council's unanimous agreement came after three weeks of negotiation between the U.S. and China, which has opposed such measures in the past. North Korea was furious at the U.N. action, issuing a threat to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons as the sanctions came up for a vote.

World
1:45 am
Wed March 6, 2013

John Kerry, A 'Recovering Politician,' Settles Into Diplomatic Role

John Kerry, on his first trip abroad as secretary of state, walks with French President Francois Hollande after their meeting at Elysee Palace in Paris on Feb. 27. Kerry's nine-day trip took him through Europe and the Middle East.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 6:44 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry describes himself as a recovering politician. He's just getting used to the fact that he can't speak quite as freely as he did when he was a senator.

"Each word means more, each relationship is played differently," he said in an interview with NPR, at the end of a nine-nation swing through Europe and the Middle East. "As a senator, you just don't have those stakes riding in it."

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Middle East
2:59 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Kerry: We're Trying To Offer Syrian President A Rational Choice

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 4:20 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As Secretary of State John Kerry wraps up his first official trip overseas, he's walking a fine line on Syria. Kerry says the Obama administration has been stepping up assistance to rebels who are trying to topple the Syrian regime. But the U.S. is also worried about how all of this will play out. NPR's Michele Kelemen spoke with the secretary of State today in Doha, Qatar, and he said he's taking this one step at a time.

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Middle East
3:49 am
Sun March 3, 2013

Amid Egypt's Divisive Climate, Kerry Urges Economic Action

Secretary of State John Kerry (center, right) meets with members of Egyptian political parties in Cairo on Saturday.
Khaled ElFiqi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 9:27 am

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walked into a chaotic situation in Egypt, the first Arab country he's visited in his new role. The country is in economic and political turmoil, and he is trying Sunday to encourage Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to open up the political process and carry out much-needed reforms. After their meeting, he announced the U.S. would release $190 million in aid to Egypt.

Kerry has also been hearing complaints from opposition figures, who have vowed to boycott upcoming elections.

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Middle East
2:32 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

U.S. Offers Additional $60 Million In Humanitarian Aid To Syria

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 10:41 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new aid package for Syrian rebels. For the first time, the administration is vowing to send aid directly to the people who are fighting to topple the regime in Syria. At a meeting in Rome, Kerry had the chance to hear from some of them and from countries backing the rebels. NPR's Michele Kelemen has our story from Rome.

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Middle East
3:19 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

U.S. Plans To Offer More Direct Aid To Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 3:57 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Obama administration is rethinking its strategy in Syria. As the death toll mounts and a diplomatic solution seems out of reach, the administration is planning to do more to help Syrian rebels. That could involve what's referred to as direct, non-lethal assistance. It does not include weapons.

Secretary of State John Kerry is talking about all this in Rome with members of the Syrian opposition, and NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with him.

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Europe
3:21 am
Tue February 26, 2013

Kerry Stops In Berlin On European Tour

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Syrian opposition leaders say they plan to attend a conference this week in Rome. They want to see what the new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has to offer to help them bring an end of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The opposition leaders had been threatening to boycott the meeting, but Kerry is promising he won't leave them dangling in the wind. NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Kerry this week on his first trip overseas as secretary of state. She filed this report from Berlin.

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National Security
3:05 am
Sun February 24, 2013

Overseas Trip A Road Test For Secretary Of State Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press prior to talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the State Department in Washington on Friday.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 5:34 am

John Kerry sets off Sunday on his first foreign trip as secretary of state, visiting Europe and the Middle East.

One dominant theme of the trip will be how to resolve the crisis in Syria, where an estimated 70,000 people have been killed over the past two years. Kerry is portraying his trip as a listening tour, and he expects to hear a lot about Syria.

He told reporters recently that he wants to talk with U.S. allies about how to persuade Bashar Assad to agree on peace talks that would end the Syrian leader's bloody rule in Syria.

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U.S.
3:12 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Kerry: Budget Cuts Threaten Foreign Policy Agenda

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 4:11 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry gave his first major foreign policy speech Wednesday at the University of Virginia. His comments come days before he leaves on his first trip as America's top diplomat. He's traveling to Europe and the Middle East.

Europe
3:24 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

U.S.-Russia Relations Continue To Falter With Prosecution Of Dead Man

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 4:42 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Next week, Secretary of State John Kerry sets off on his first official trip. He'll head to both Europe and the Middle East. He will not be visiting Russia but aides say he might meet his Russian counterparts somewhere on the trip.

They have a lot to talk about, from the crisis in Syria to a dispute over adoptions, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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Europe
4:15 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Bulgaria Links Hezbollah To Deadly Attack On Israelis

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 6:51 am

Bulgarian authorities say they have evidence the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah financed and carried out a bomb attack at a Black Sea resort town last year, killing five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian citizen.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said it was an extremely intensive investigation.

"The results of that investigation leads to a number of persons who are connected to the military wing of Hezbollah," he said.

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Politics
3:10 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

As Clinton Bows Out, Analysts Debate Her Influence On Foreign Policy

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 5:17 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That attack in Turkey came on Hillary Clinton's last day as secretary of state. She says it's another reminder that we live in complex and dangerous times.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: But I leave this department confident, confident about the direction we have set.

CORNISH: Employees crammed the State Department's lobby to see her off, and Clinton appeared wistful.

CLINTON: I am very proud to have been secretary of state. I will miss you. I will probably be dialing up just to talk.

(LAUGHTER)

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