WASHINGTON : The professional body for diplomats has given the State Department until Thursday to certify that all nominees for plum US ambassadorships are competent to serve, amid anger over the number of political appointees.

Otherwise, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) says it will sue the US administration to force it to prove that all the nominees have so-called “certificates of demonstrated competence.” It comes amid growing anger at the almost uniquely US practice of rewarding top campaign donors and supporters with some of the most coveted jobs in diplomacy - such as being the US ambassador to Paris or London. “AFSA remains concerned about the qualifications of several recent nominees,” the body said in a statement. “AFSA’s goal is to ensure that the nation has the most qualified persons serving as ambassadors. AFSA believes that the president and the US people deserve nothing less.”

The row was triggered after a number of embarrassing hearings triggered open scorn and sneering from senators who have to approve the appointments.

Noah Mamet, who raised more than $500,000 for President Barack Obama, admitted he knew nothing about Argentina or even the Spanish language, despite being nominated to serve in Buenos Aires.

And million-dollar donations bundler and Chartwell Hotels chief executive George Tsunis, who raised about $1.3 million for Obama’s election campaign and the Democratic Party, admitted he’d never visited Norway - where he is to be posted.

Worse, he said the nation had a president - it is a constitutional monarchy - and described the anti-immigration Progress Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, as among the country’s “fringe elements” who “spew their hatred.”

The nominee for ambassador to Hungary, soap opera producer Colleen Bell, who helped collect $800,000 for the Obama campaign, could only repeat generalities about US strategic interests despite growing concern over some lawmakers’ positions toward Jews and other minorities.

The State Department has however stood firm, with officials saying all the nominees are “incredibly qualified” and bring a wide range of talents to their posts.

AFSA, which counts some 16,400 current and retired diplomats among its members, says it is concerned that career foreign service officials, who spend their lives working for the State Department, are also being locked out of top jobs.