India waits and watches as Kerry replaces Clinton

The US Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted for John Kerry as America's new secretary of state, replacing Hilary Rodham Clinton, as President Barak Obama shakes up his administration.

Kerry, one of the country's most senior politicians, sailed through the Senate vote 94-3, with what was no more than token dissension from the three Republican senators. Two of them stayed away; the third registered himself present but did not vote.

Kerry's easy confirmation as America's top diplomat had been expected. The Senate agreed to vote quickly after his confirmation hearing last week. The Foreign Relations Committee had voted unanimously by voice vote earlier on Tuesday to back his nomination.

The Senate's approval sets in motion a special election for Kerry's Massachusetts Senate seat. The five-term senator and losing presidential candidate in 2004 is expected to be sworn later this week.

Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said before the roll call that a heavy vote for Kerry would send a "strong message" to the rest of the world that he had the firm backing of the entire country.

Senator Bob Corker, the highest-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, praised Kerry's testimony on Thursday. "I thought that Senator Kerry acquitted himself exceptionally well in the hearings that we had last week," he said on the Senate floor.

President Obama's first choice for the job, Susan E Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew as a candidate after Republicans criticised her for comments she made after last September's deadly attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.