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
3:38 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 4:26 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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Middle East
3:00 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Blogger: U.S. Shouldn't Trust Egypt's Government

Originally published on Sun April 1, 2012 8:06 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The revolution in Egypt is still a work in progress, but one thing that has not changed is the partnership between the U.S. and Egypt's powerful military. In fact, just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she would let $1.3 billion in aid flow to Egypt's military, as usual, this year. Clinton said the country has made significant progress toward democracy.

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Africa
4:21 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 1:14 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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Afghanistan
4:58 am
Fri March 16, 2012

Peace Deal Process With Taliban Stalls

Originally published on Fri March 16, 2012 8:24 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

We're learning more about the American staff sergeant accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan. Last night, his lawyer said the soldier did not want to go to Afghanistan, his fourth deployment for the Army. He had been wounded twice and he didn't think he was healthy enough to deploy. The attorney didn't release the soldier's name, but did say he was the father of two young children and added that the soldier's family was totally shocked by the allegations against him.

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Middle East
2:05 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Egypt's Moves Leave Democracy Advocate Bewildered

Sam LaHood of the International Republican Institute is one of 19 American democracy promoters who face charges of fomenting unrest in Egypt. Here, he is shown last month at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Courtesy IRI

Originally published on Fri March 9, 2012 3:00 pm

Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, spent four weeks holed up at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, sleeping on an air mattress part of the time and trying to fathom why the Egyptians wanted to prosecute him and his pro-democracy colleagues.

Eventually, LaHood's organization and others with employees facing prosecution paid more than $300,000 a person in bail to get them off the Egyptian travel ban, and the U.S. government flew most of them home.

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Middle East
11:01 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Obama, Netanyahu Differ On Timeline Of Iran Strike

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference on Monday in Washington, D.C. He said he would never let his "people live in the shadow of annihilation."
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

In several hours of talks, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to have different timelines and red lines on the issue of Iran's nuclear program: Obama said he prefers diplomacy and pressure; the Israeli leader made clear his country reserves the right to attack pre-emptively, saying Israel must remain master of its fate.

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Asia
4:07 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

N. Korea To Halt Nuclear Tests; U.S. To Provide Aid

North Korea's military fires missiles during a drill in this undated photo released Oct. 6, 2010, by the Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has agreed to stop nuclear activities and allow inspections, while the U.S. says it will provide food aid to the country.
Korean Central News Agency AP

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 7:34 pm

North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and missile tests, and the U.S. says it will provide food aid. The agreement should set the stage for a new round of nuclear disarmament talks. But analysts caution this is a small first step.

U.S. State Department officials returned from three days of talks in Beijing with a deal meant to improve the atmosphere for a resumption of so-called six-party nuclear disarmament talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the deal in Congress on Wednesday.

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Asia
9:59 am
Wed February 29, 2012

N. Korea Agrees To Nuclear Moratorium, U.S. Says

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 10:03 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. We have learned this morning that North Korea has agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests and uranium enrichment activities. This is according to State Department officials just back from a trip to China, where they met with North Korean negotiators. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more on what could be a step towards reviving nuclear disarmament talks.

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Middle East
4:02 am
Mon February 27, 2012

Clinton: How Do We Help Syrians Defend Themselves?

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 7:17 pm

Just a few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tunis, Tunisia, meeting her counterparts from dozens of countries and issuing an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad to silence his guns and allow in humanitarian aid.

While in Morocco, before flying home to Washington, D.C., Clinton talked to NPR's Michele Kelemen.

Syrian tanks continue to batter homes, and no aid is getting in. So what are allies of the Syrian people to do?

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Middle East
5:11 am
Sat February 25, 2012

Clinton Steps Up Calls For A Halt To Violence In Syria

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a press conference at a conference on Syria in Tunis, Tunisia, on Friday. The participants were united in their calls for a ceasefire and for Syrian President Bashar Assad to allow humanitarian aid into his country.
EPA /Landov

Originally published on Thu March 29, 2012 4:18 pm

Syrians are looking to the world in their hour of need and "we cannot let them down," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday at an international conference on Syria held in Tunisia.

The dozens of countries represented at the conference, Clinton said, are united in their demands: Syrian President Bashar Assad must allow much-needed aid to his people and silence his guns or face more isolation and pressure.

But debate continues over what other steps countries in the region could take.

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All Tech Considered
3:21 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Twitter Diplomacy: State Department 2.0

Robert Ford (left), the U.S. ambassador to Syria, speaks to an unidentified U.S. military attache during a guided government tour in the northern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughur last June. The U.S. has closed its embassy in Syria owing to security concerns, but Ford is using Facebook to stay involved in the country.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 7:13 pm

The U.S. evacuated the staff of its embassy in Damascus earlier this month owing to security issues. But that hasn't stopped Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, from using social media to keep in touch with events on the ground, and to try to shape them.

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Media
11:01 pm
Sun February 19, 2012

Russian Accuses Voice Of America Of Fake Interview

Voice of America was criticized after the veracity of its interview with a Russian anti-corruption activist was questioned. In this photo provided by the network, a control room is seen during a Russian-language Web show.
Voice of America

Originally published on Mon February 20, 2012 5:56 am

NPR's Michele Kelemen is a former employee of Voice of America.

Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny has been the victim of many dirty tricks by pro-Kremlin media.

But when the U.S. government-funded Voice of America published an online interview that had him criticizing other Russian opposition figures, Navalny quickly tweeted that the interview was a fake.

"It seems the VOA has gone nuts," he wrote to his Twitter followers.

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Asia
3:27 am
Tue February 14, 2012

White House Welcomes Chinese Official Xi Jinping

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 9:28 am

The man who is expected to become China's next president begins highly anticipated meetings in Washington on Tuesday. The trip comes as the Obama administration seeks to shift the emphasis of U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region — including changes the Chinese aren't sure they like.

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Middle East
4:52 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

With Death Toll Soaring, What's Next In Aid To Syria?

Bodies of what activists say are victims of shelling by the Syrian army in a Sunni Muslim district in the central city of Homs, on Feb. 8.
Handout Reuters/Landov

As the death toll mounts in Syria, the U.S. and its partners have been scrambling to come up with new diplomatic initiatives to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to silence his army's guns and give up power.

Last week, Russia and China blocked a U.N. resolution that would have supported the Arab League peace proposals. Since then, the violence has only intensified.

Like other international diplomats, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is still reeling from Russia and China's refusal to back the Arab League proposal's to solve the crisis in Syria.

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Middle East
11:01 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

What Do Democracy Promoters Actually Do?

Members of the Egyptian military stand guard as officials raid the offices of a nongovernmental organization in Cairo. Egyptian investigating judges referred international NGO workers to trial for allegedly being involved in banned activities and illegally receiving foreign funds, security officials said.
Mohammed Asad AP

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 9:33 am

American lawmakers are furious about a mounting diplomatic crisis in Egypt, where dozens of nongovernmental workers, including 19 Americans, could face trial.

The United States says Egypt needs to let pro-democracy groups continue their work to help the country's transition, but Egypt accuses them of operating illegally.

The work of democracy promotion groups has raised suspicions in many countries, but Lorne Craner, who runs the International Republican Institute, says he has never seen anything like what's going on now in Egypt.

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Middle East
3:40 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

U.S. Aid At Risk As Egypt Targets Democracy Groups

Egyptian police raid a nongovernmental organization office in Cairo last December. Egyptian investigating judges on Sunday referred 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, to trial before a criminal court for allegedly being involved in banned activities and illegally receiving foreign funds, security officials said.
Mohammed Asad AP

Originally published on Mon February 6, 2012 6:33 pm

In a rapidly escalating dispute between allies, 43 people, including 19 Americans, are to face trial in Egypt for their work in promoting democracy. They include the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Sam LaHood was running the Cairo office of the International Republican Institute. The case against him and others has caused a furious reaction in Washington — with lawmakers threatening to hold up U.S. aid to Egypt.

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World
2:00 pm
Sat February 4, 2012

Russia, China Veto UN Resolution On Syria

The U.N. Security Council failed again Saturday to take decisive action to stop the escalating violence in Syria as Russia and China vetoed a resolution backing an Arab League plan that calls for President Bashar Assad to step down. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the veto drew intense criticism from the U.S.

Europe
5:14 am
Sat February 4, 2012

In Ukraine, A Daughter Takes Up Her Mother's Cause

A police officer speaks to Ukraine's former prime minster, Yulia Tymoshenko, after she was convicted of abuse of power charges in a court in Kiev on Oct. 11, 2011. She is now serving a seven-year term, but her supporters say the charges against her were politically motivated.
Sergei Supinsky AFP/Getty Images

Evgeniya Tymoshenko has her mother's looks — minus the trademark blond braid that makes her mother, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, quickly recognizable.

But the younger Tymoshenko says she's not a politician. She never imagined herself testifying on Capitol Hill, getting face time with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a prayer breakfast, or speaking to reporters at a K Street lobbying firm.

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Middle East
11:01 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Longtime Allies, Egypt And U.S. Now Have Differences

The U.S. is insisting that Egypt establish a full-fledged democracy and move away from military rule. Here, an Egyptian woman covers her head in a national flag as she demonstrates in a pro-democracy rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Jan. 27.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 31, 2012 6:50 am

For many years, top Egyptian officials coming to Washington could expect a warm welcome, with few points of contention.

But for a group of Egyptian generals now in the U.S., several points of friction are likely to dominate the agenda between the longtime allies.

Egypt doesn't like the new conditions U.S. lawmakers have placed on American aid. And the U.S. is furious with the way Egypt has been treating U.S. groups that promote democracy. At least three Americans have taken shelter in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

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Europe
4:00 am
Sat January 21, 2012

New U.S. Ambassador Already Facing Critics In Russia

Michael McFaul, the architect of the reset of relations with Russia, is now the U.S. ambassador to Moscow as the countries work through a series of difficult issues. Here, McFaul is shown at his Jan. 10 swearing-in at the Sate Department, a ceremony presided over by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Astrid Riecken Getty images

Originally published on Sat January 21, 2012 9:31 am

In the early days of the Obama administration, Michael McFaul made his mark as the architect of the so-called reset of relations with Russia.

Now, as the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, McFaul may need to reset relations once again as the two countries go through another rough patch.

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Africa
4:59 am
Sun January 15, 2012

Just A Few Months Old, S. Sudan Already In Turmoil

People who escaped ethnic violence in Jonglei state wait for food rations at a World Food Program distribution center on Thursday. South Sudan gained independence just six months ago, and already ethnic tensions inside the new country have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Michael Onyiego AP

South Sudan gained independence just six months ago, but the country is already plagued by ethnic violence at home and ongoing tensions with its previous rulers in Sudan.

Potential humanitarian crises are brewing in both Sudans, and U.S. diplomats are sounding frustrated that the two are not talking to each other enough.

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Asia
2:00 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

U.S. To Exchange Ambassadors With Myanmar

The United States announced Friday that it will exchange ambassadors with Myanmar, also known as Burma, partly in response to the release of hundreds of political prisoners there. This is the latest development in what appears to be a dramatic turnaround for the repressive government in that Southeast Asian nation. President Obama calls the prisoner release "a substantial step forward for democratic reform." Currently, the U.S. Embassy is headed by a charge d'affaires rather than an ambassador.

Politics
7:00 am
Sun January 8, 2012

U.S. Reconsiders Egypt Aid After NGOs Raided

Originally published on Sun January 8, 2012 9:16 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Pull back U.S. military aid to Egypt. That is the call from some on Capitol Hill these days. Congress is furious about raids last month by Egyptian security forces on pro-democracy groups in Cairo. The nonprofit groups include the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House and the International Republican Institute. All these groups get U.S. funding and they're in the country helping monitor Egypt's parliamentary elections.

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Asia
1:34 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

U.S. Keeps Pressure On Myanmar For Political Change

Myanmar has set parliamentary by-elections for April 1, scheduling a highly anticipated vote that will return dissident Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to mainstream politics after two decades. Here, Suu Kyi attends a fundraising event for the party in Yangon, Myanmar, last month.
Khin Maung Win AP

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 8:19 pm

One of the more surprising moments in U.S. foreign policy last year occurred when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar, long ruled by a repressive military government and shunned as a pariah nation.

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Africa
11:01 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

New Law Aims To Shine Light On Conflict Metals

Workers dig at a mine in Chudja, near Bunia, north eastern Congo. The conflict in the Congo, a nation rich in mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, tin, and cobalt, has often been linked to a struggle for control over its minerals resources.
Lionel Healing AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 7:14 am

Delly Mawazo Sesete wants American consumers to know what is in their smart phones, computers and other electronics and where U.S. companies like Apple are getting those rare metals.

Sesete says that, without knowing, consumers in the U.S. could be fueling conflicts in Eastern Congo. The human rights activist is from a remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed groups are wreaking havoc and get much of their funding from mining rare metals.

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North Korea In Transition
2:10 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

U.S. Treads Cautiously With North Korean Transition

North Korean residents line up to receive food rations at a Red Cross distribution center in Tongsin, North Korea, in 1997. Discussions over U.S. food aid to the reclusive country were to take place Monday. "You could, in a very real sense, see the needs for food assistance," said an official with Mercy Corps, after a September 2011 visit to the country.
Lasse Norgaard AP

Originally published on Mon December 19, 2011 7:19 pm

The changing of the guard in North Korea poses clear risks for the United States.

Kim Jong Il's son Kim Jong Un is the likely successor. But he's still in his 20s and has had little time to prepare to take over the country. Analysts say that because he's weak, he won't be in any position to get back to nuclear disarmament talks and make concessions.

Kim Jong Un may also be tempted to take provocative actions to establish his leadership credentials, and the Obama administration has to take all this into account as it decides on next steps.

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Leaving Iraq
8:00 pm
Sat December 17, 2011

Huge Embassy Keeps U.S. Presence In Iraq

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani speaks at the opening of the huge U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Jan. 5, 2009. It is the largest U.S. Embassy in the world.
Handout Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 18, 2011 11:40 am

As the final U.S. troops leave Iraq, they leave behind the largest U.S. Embassy in the world.

There will be about 16,000 people working for the State Department at the embassy in Baghdad and consulates elsewhere in Iraq.

At least 5,000 of those in Iraq will be private security contractors, and there are lots of questions about whether the State Department is ready to run such a big operation in such a volatile country.

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Africa
3:20 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

South Sudan: Will Oil Lead It Out of Poverty?

South Sudanese security forces stand outside the control room of the Petrodar oil facility in Paloich, South Sudan. Sudan was once sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, but much of that oil came from what is now South Sudan.
Pete Muller AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 6:12 pm

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is still trying to find its feet, and private companies, international aid experts and diplomats have gathered in Washington this week to see if they can help.

The 5-month-old country is one of the most underdeveloped places in the world, and it still has many lingering disputes with its former rulers in Sudan — disputes that could scare off potential investors.

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World
2:00 pm
Fri December 9, 2011

U.S. Faces Financial Troubles As Egypt Needs Aid

The U.S. has poured $28 billion of economic assistance into Egypt in recent decades. But now when Egypt's needs are the greatest, the U.S. and Europe are cash strapped. The Obama administration is trying to quickly reprogram aid to make sure it helps bolster democratic forces in the country and creates jobs to help ease the country's transition. The International Monetary Fund's chief Christine Lagarde says her door is open as well, but countries like Egypt need to ask for aid, which does come with some conditions. Meanwhile, leading members of Congress say the U.S.

Reporter's Notebook
7:00 am
Sat December 3, 2011

Clinton Tests Myanmar's Resolve Personally

Originally published on Sat December 3, 2011 2:31 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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