WASHINGTON - The United States Senate has confirmed ambassadors to 16 countries including India, a position that had been left vacant for a year despite calls in both countries for stronger relations. The Senate late Thursday gave its nod to a slew of appointments by President Barack Obama, overcoming a political impasse. A Republican aide said the rival party allowed the vote after a promise by the administration not to bypass Congress by making appointments when lawmakers are in recess. Lawmakers approved career diplomat Nancy Powell as ambassador to India.

Obama's first ambassador to India, former congressman Timothy Roemer, announced his resignation in April 2011. Obama tapped Powell in December but the nomination has since languished in the Senate.

The Obama administration has repeatedly said it puts a priority on building relations with the world's largest democracy, although relations have recently seen friction over import-dependent India's refusal to cut off oil from Iran.

Powell has previously served as US envoy in Pakistan and Nepal and holds the prestigious rank of career ambassador. US presidents have often chosen political appointees instead of career diplomats for India to highlight the importance of the relationship. The Senate also confirmed ambassadors to Barbados, Cambodia, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Haiti, Kosovo, Latvia, Libya, Malta, Nicaragua, Panama, Togo, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Also approved were a number of other senior officials who have been working without Senate confirmation including Roberta Jacobson, named the assistant secretary of state in charge of Latin America.

The long delays in Senate confirmation recently led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to urge ambassadors, who traditionally step down with the end of an administration, to stay until their replacements are in place.