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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5:11pm

Tue December 3, 2013
Parallels

Will Progress On Nuke Talks Mean More Engagement From Iran?

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

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

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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5:12pm

Tue November 12, 2013
Middle East

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.

5:21pm

Mon November 11, 2013
Africa

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.

3:17am

Mon November 4, 2013
Parallels

Syria's Moderate Rebels Fight A Battle On Two Fronts

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

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

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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6:12am

Sun October 20, 2013
World

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

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

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

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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4:50am

Thu October 17, 2013
Middle East

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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4:41am

Tue October 1, 2013
Middle East

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.

5:30am

Wed September 25, 2013
Middle East

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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2:25pm

Fri September 20, 2013
Parallels

Will The U.S. Grant A Visa To Sudan's Indicted Leader?

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 8:09 pm

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who faces genocide charges, has applied for a visa to come to the U.S. for the annual United Nations General Assembly next week. The U.S. has not yet said whether he'll be allowed in the country.
Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah Reuters/Landov

As the host of the United Nations, the U.S. is supposed to let everyone come to the annual U.N. General Assembly, not just the people it likes.

But this year, the proposition is being put to the test. Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, was indicted three years ago by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges stemming from the mass killings in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Bashir has also applied for a visa to the U.N. meetings next week.

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5:37pm

Sat September 14, 2013
World

U.S.-Russia Deal: Syria Has A Week To Detail Chemical Arsenal

Originally published on Sat September 14, 2013 6:15 pm

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

The U.S. and Russia have agreed on a plan to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of next year. Secretary of State John Kerry calls it an ambitious timetable but says he's confident the international community can keep the pressure on Syria to comply. President Obama welcomed the agreement but says the U.S. remains prepared to act should the diplomatic route fail.

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5:29am

Sun August 18, 2013
Middle East

Obama Struggles To Find Effective Egypt Policy

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 7:00 pm

President Obama delivers a statement on Egypt at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard on Thursday.
Pool Getty Images

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.

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5:09am

Sat August 10, 2013
National Security

Kerry, Hagel Aim To Ease U.S.-Russian Tensions

Originally published on Sun August 11, 2013 7:43 am

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, walk to their news conference at the Russian Embassy in Washington on Friday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

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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11:33am

Sun August 4, 2013
National Security

Snowden Case Illustrates Decline In U.S.-Russia Relations

Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 6:38 pm

President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Northern Ireland in June.
Evan Vucci AP

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.

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8:21am

Sat July 6, 2013
Political Crisis In Egypt

The U.S. Holds The Aid Card, Yet Egypt Still Trumps

Originally published on Sat July 6, 2013 9:04 pm

Egyptian protesters celebrate in Tahrir Square on Wednesday. The United States has managed to alienate just about every political actor in Egypt.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

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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6:12am

Wed June 19, 2013
Middle East

U.S. To Test The Waters With Iran's New President Rohani

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:40 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

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6:52am

Fri June 14, 2013
Middle East

U.S. To Provide Military Support To Opposition In Syria

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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.

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4:46am

Fri June 7, 2013
NPR Story

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

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 2:32 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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6:53am

Thu June 6, 2013
Politics

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

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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6:11am

Wed June 5, 2013
Middle East

Egyptian Court Verdict Complicates Relations With Washington

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 9:20 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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3:44am

Mon May 6, 2013
Europe

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

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 9:47 am

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

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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2:47pm

Fri April 26, 2013
Middle East

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

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 4:47 pm

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

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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5:12am

Sun April 14, 2013
Middle East

Syria Conflict Brings Middle East Leaders To White House

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 3:54 pm

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

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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4:56pm

Thu March 7, 2013
Asia

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

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 6:13 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.

3:45am

Wed March 6, 2013
World

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

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 8:44 pm

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

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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5:29pm

Tue March 5, 2013
Middle East

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

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 6:20 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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5:49am

Sun March 3, 2013
Middle East

Amid Egypt's Divisive Climate, Kerry Urges Economic Action

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 11:27 am

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

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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5:19pm

Wed February 27, 2013
Middle East

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

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 5:57 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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5:21am

Tue February 26, 2013
NPR Story

Kerry Stops In Berlin On European Tour

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 9:44 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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5:05am

Sun February 24, 2013
National Security

Overseas Trip A Road Test For Secretary Of State Kerry

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 7:34 am

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

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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6:02pm

Tue February 5, 2013
Europe

Bulgaria Links Hezbollah To Deadly Attack On Israelis

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 8:51 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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