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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3:59am

Sun January 15, 2012
Africa

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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6:00am

Sun January 8, 2012
Politics

U.S. Reconsiders Egypt Aid After NGOs Raided

Originally published on Sun January 8, 2012 8:16 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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12:34pm

Tue January 3, 2012
Asia

U.S. Keeps Pressure On Myanmar For Political Change

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 7:19 pm

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

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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10:01pm

Mon December 19, 2011
Africa

New Law Aims To Shine Light On Conflict Metals

Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 6:14 am

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

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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1:10pm

Mon December 19, 2011
North Korea In Transition

U.S. Treads Cautiously With North Korean Transition

Originally published on Mon December 19, 2011 6:19 pm

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

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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7:00pm

Sat December 17, 2011
Leaving Iraq

Huge Embassy Keeps U.S. Presence In Iraq

Originally published on Sun December 18, 2011 10:40 am

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

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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2:20pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Africa

South Sudan: Will Oil Lead It Out of Poverty?

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:12 pm

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

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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1:00pm

Fri December 9, 2011
World

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.

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6:00am

Sat December 3, 2011
Reporter's Notebook

Clinton Tests Myanmar's Resolve Personally

Originally published on Sat December 3, 2011 1:31 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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2:00am

Fri December 2, 2011
Asia

Clinton Tests Myanmar's Commitment To Change

While on her visit to Myanmar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her home. She has been freed from house arrest after many years, and says she trusts the new government's changes enough to run for office in upcoming elections.

10:01pm

Sun November 27, 2011
Asia

Clinton To Test Myanmar's Readiness For Reforms

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Asia this week will include stops in Myanmar and South Korea.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sets off for Asia Monday, and part of her trip will see her as the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Myanmar – formerly known as Burma.

Secretary Clinton says she's going to Myanmar to test the waters to see how committed the country's new leader is to reforms. She'll also meet with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is rejoining the political process in the country and who has been guiding U.S. policy, according to activist Aung Din.

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10:01pm

Tue November 15, 2011
Middle East

For Arab Nations In Transition, U.S. Emphasizes Trade

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 3:31 am

Egyptians are seen working in a bakery in Cairo. The U.S. has been working on ways to help revive the economies of nations in transition, like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, while having limited resources available during tough economic times.
Mahmud Hams AFP/Getty Images

Just as the Arab uprisings were getting under way, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was warning that the region's foundations were sinking in the sand and that governments needed to respond to the needs of a young, educated and underemployed generation.

Now, she's come up with a new catchphrase.

"As tens of millions of young people enter the job market each year, we recognize that the Arab political awakening must also deliver an economic awakening," Clinton said. "And we are working to help societies create jobs to ensure that it does."

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3:18pm

Mon October 24, 2011
Africa

Activists Support U.S. Move Against Uganda Rebels

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 4:50 am

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, in a 2006 photo. The Obama administration has sent 100 troops to advise militaries in Uganda and neighboring countries that are battling Kony's forces.

STR AP

Human rights groups don't usually cheer military forays. But they have offered loud applause for the Obama administration's decision to send 100 military advisers to several countries in Africa to help those nations fight one of the continent's most notorious rebel groups, the Lord's Resistance Army.

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10:01pm

Tue October 18, 2011
Middle East

Palestinians Try Alternate U.N. Route, Worrying U.S.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) hands over a formal letter for Palestine to be admitted as a state to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during the 66th U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 23. Now, the Palestinians are pursuing full membership in other U.N. agencies.

Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

With the Palestinian membership bid sitting — and likely going nowhere — in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians are trying another route to upgrade their international status.

They are applying for full membership in UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and may do the same with other specialized U.N. agencies.

And that has diplomats at the State Department increasingly concerned about what impact this may have on the U.S. position in the U.N. system.

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6:12am

Sat October 15, 2011
Middle East

U.S., Europe Shield Syrian Dissidents Abroad

Originally published on Sat October 15, 2011 1:28 pm

While much of the focus this past week has been on an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., diplomats and law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe also began to take aim at Syria for an alleged conspiracy to intimidate dissidents abroad.

Syrian-American Mohamad Soueid was indicted in the U.S. on charges he passed information about dissidents back to the country's intelligence services.

On Monday, a judge is set to decide whether he should remain in prison pending his trial.

An Agent Of The Syrian Government?

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12:32am

Wed October 12, 2011
Africa

Famine-Stricken Somalia Suffers From Aid Drought

Humanitarian groups are increasingly worried about the looming budget cuts in U.S. foreign assistance. They argue that lives are at stake, literally, in places like the Horn of Africa, which is suffering its worst drought in decades.

Raising public and private money for that has been a challenge in the current economic environment.

Hollywood stars and politicians have resorted to using the F word — in this case Famine — to get the attention of Americans about the humanitarian emergency in Somalia.

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2:00am

Wed October 5, 2011
Middle East

U.N. Resolution Against Syria Fails In Security Council

The U.N. Security Council has failed to agree on what to do about Syria's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters. Tuesday night, Russia and China vetoed a resolution condemning Syria, even after the text was watered down and stripped of any threats of sanctions.

3:16pm

Mon October 3, 2011
Middle East

Syrian Exiles Fear Long Reach Of Secret Police

Originally published on Mon October 3, 2011 3:51 pm

Protesters shout slogans against the Syrian government in front of the White House in July. A new report from Amnesty International documents more than 30 cases of Syrian activists living overseas whose activities have been monitored and whose families in Syria have been threatened.

Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Syrian exiles have been harassed and monitored at anti-government protests abroad, and their families back home have been threatened, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

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12:50pm

Thu September 29, 2011
Middle East

Americans Seek Answers As New Egypt Emerges

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr during a joint press conference in Washington on Wednesday. Amr sought to assure the U.S. that Egypt is moving toward democracy.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

As Egypt tries to figure out a path forward following its revolution, the country's foreign minister was in Washington this week attempting to reassure the Obama administration that all is going well.

For the Americans, the two big issues are the status of Egypt's elections and the state of Egypt's relations with Israel. There are unanswered questions on both fronts.

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2:26am

Wed September 28, 2011
Europe

Will U.S.-Russia Reset Survive A Putin Presidency?

Originally published on Wed September 28, 2011 11:59 am

Russia's leading political party, United Russia, called for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) and and President Dmitry Medvedev to effectively switch jobs when Russia holds elections next year. Putin previously served as president from 1999-2008.
Yekaterina Shtukina AP

Vladimir Putin's planned run for the presidency next year comes as no surprise to U.S. policymakers. But it may make their lives more complicated and signal a return to more troubled times in U.S.-Russian relations.

Russia's dominant political party, United Russia, nominated Putin as its presidential candidate on Saturday. That virtually assures him that he will return to his old job, which he held from 1999 to 2008. The current president, Dmitry Medvedev, will be the candidate to replace Putin as prime minister.

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