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.

Secretary of State John Kerry says there is clear evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its citizens. He laid out that evidence at a briefing at the State Department, and pledged a "tailored and limited" US response to hold the Assad regime accountable.

A UN weapons inspection team is due to leave Syria on Saturday, but it will take time for them to review all of the material they've gathered about an alleged chemical weapons attack. The British government now says it will wait to hear the report before taking any military action to punish Bashar al-Assad's regime. That leaves the U.S. in an awkward position. It has written off the UN route because of Russia's opposition to any action.

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And I'm Melissa Block. The Arab League says those behind last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria must face justice. The call came at an emergency meeting in Cairo, one day after the U.S. announced it has little doubt that Bashar al-Assad's regime was responsible for gassing civilians. The Obama administration says it has not yet decided whether to strike Syria but is consulting with allies, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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The latest reports of chemical weapon attacks in Syria set off a tense debate in the United Nation Security Council. It met this afternoon in an urgent session. The U.N. has long been divided over how to deal with Syria. The United States and its partners are calling for a full investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons, but Russia is casting doubts on the allegations and is defending the Syrian government's position.

NPR's Michele Kelemen has our story.

The Obama administration is in a difficult situation with its Egypt policy.

President Obama, who often talks about free speech and human rights, has cancelled joint military exercises with Egypt but has stopped short of cutting off aid to the Egyptian military. As the violence continues in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, all sides seem unhappy with the U.S. approach.

In 2009, on his first trip to the Middle East as president, in the same year he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama spoke of a new approach to relations with the Islamic world.

President Obama is canceling joint military exercises with Egypt and condemning the violence that is taking place there. But the administration has stopped short of suspending aid to the Egyptian military. The U.S. faces a policy conundrum in Egypt, which has long played a key role in regional stability.

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Around the world, there is sharp reaction to the crackdown in Cairo. In Egypt, there is a month-long state of emergency and a nightly curfew. Egyptian riot police moved against supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in the early hours today. Armored vehicles, helicopters and bulldozers moved on the camps to clear protesters out of two encampments in the capital city. Witnesses describe it as a bloodbath.

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Certainly one big focus for John Kerry and the Obama administration is the conflict in Syria which continues to rage on. Diplomatic efforts to solve it remain at a stalemate. And as the fighting goes on, refugee camps have become difficult to manage. Getting aid into the country is an even bigger challenge.

NPR's Michele Kelemen contacted several aid groups to see how they're trying to reach millions of Syrians in need.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with their Russian counterparts for talks in Washington on Friday, aiming to repair strained relations with Moscow.

President Obama snubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday when he called off plans to go to Moscow next month for a one-on-one summit. He was reacting to Russia's offer of temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

But on Friday, the diplomats seemed eager to show that the dispute is not some new sort of cold war.

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President Obama has canceled a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The decision comes not long after Russia announced it was granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. He faces charges in the U.S. that he leaked secret documents on government surveillance programs. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, today's reversal is just the latest sign that U.S.-Russia relations are not in a good place.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Nineteen U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa will stay closed for the rest of the week. The State Department says that it's operating out of an abundance of caution amid intelligence reports about the possibility of terrorist attacks. And, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, it's not clear when the facilities will reopen.

U.S.-Russia relations hit a new low this week, when Moscow ignored U.S. requests and gave temporary asylum to a man who leaked classified documents on U.S. government surveillance programs.

Many in Congress are complaining that the Edward Snowden case is just the latest example of how the Kremlin is thumbing its nose at the White House.

The Obama administration famously reset relations with Russia when Dmitry Medvedev was president. But now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is back in the Kremlin, it seems to be having a more difficult time.

U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the Muslim world will be closed on Sunday and possible for longer. The State Department says it is taking the step "out of an abundance of caution" and wouldn't say if they are receiving direct threats. Members of Congress say there are concerns about an al-Qaida-linked attack. Last year, the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed in Benghazi, along with three other Americans. At that time, there were also violent protests at U.S. embassies in Cairo and Tunisia.

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This evening, after a three-year hiatus, Secretary of State John Kerry is re-launching Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Kerry has tapped a longtime expert on the region, Martin Indyk of The Brookings Institution, to be the day-to-day point person on negotiations. Many are skeptical that this renewed effort will work. But as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, Secretary Kerry has made it a top priority.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. A young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban attack last year was at the United Nations today, appealing for education for all children. It was the first public speech by Malala Yousafzai since the Taliban tried to kill her near her school in Pakistan's Swat Valley last year. Today also happens to be her 16th birthday, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

As the Obama administration slow-walks a decision on whether to call the ousting of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a coup, which would lead to an aid cut off, U.S. officials are also in the awkward position of trying to encourage the Muslim Brotherhood to accept Morsi's ouster and return to the political process. President Obama has spoken by phone to the leader of Qatar, which had bankrolled the Morsi government. He's also been talking to Gulf leaders who were quick to step in to help Egypt after the Islamist government was toppled.

President Obama is considering pulling all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next year, but the White House says no decision is imminent. Administration officials say the U.S. and Afghanistan are still talking about whether the U.S. will keep some residual force in Afghanistan after 2014.

The ouster of Mohammed Morsi puts the U.S. in an awkward position: By law, the administration is supposed to cut off aid to a country after a military coup, but Egypt's military has been a key to regional stability. As the administration considers its next steps, it's come under criticism from all sides in Egypt over how it's handling the situation.

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The U.S. is urging countries around the world to return a former intelligence contractor, who was last seen in Hong Kong. The State Department revoked Edward Snowden's passport, but the man accused of releasing American secrets is on the run. And there seem to be plenty of countries, including Russia, willing to hide him in spite of U.S. appeals.

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Russia, China and Uzbekistan are among the countries that the U.S. says are not doing enough to combat modern-day slavery. That was one of the many findings in the State Department's annual human trafficking report released this afternoon.

NPR's Michele Kelemen tells us more.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Luis CdeBaca runs the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

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When Barack Obama became president and offered his hand to Iran, that country's elites reacted skeptically. Many said he was a new face, but still represented Iran's great enemy. Now, Iran will have a new face, winner of last week's presidential election, Hassan Rohani. He says he wants better relations with the outside world, so it's America's turn to wonder just how much Rohani could really change in Iran's confrontation with the U.S. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on the evidence so far.

After determining that the Syrian government has crossed a red line by using chemical weapons, the White House has agreed to start sending military aid to the rebels. Some analysts think it may be too late to tip the balance in Syria, where Assad's forces backed by Hezbollah, Iran and Russia have been gaining ground.

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And I'm Linda Wertheimer. The Obama administration has shifted policy on Syria with an announcement, last night, that it will step up support for rebels who've been losing ground in recent weeks. The White House says it will start providing direct military support to rebel commanders.

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.

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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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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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