TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s Foreign Ministry says it is hopeful the appointment of former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon would improve relations between Tehran and the US.

Asked about Hagel’s nomination, ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that Tehran was hopeful that there would be “practical changes” to US foreign policy, and that nations would change their attitude towards the US if it respected their rights.

Hagel was nominated Monday and faces tough confirmation hearings. Critics have said he is hostile toward Israel and soft on Iran.

Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic relations since 1979 when Iranian militants stormed the US embassy and took American diplomats hostages.

Tensions have spiked over America’s belief that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapon, a charge Iran denies.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.