Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel. Photo by AP
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U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for defense secretary says the "window is closing" on Iran and the possibility of diplomacy if it continues to ignore international demands to end pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

Chuck Hagel made the comments in a 112-page questionnaire for the Senate
Armed Services Committee. The panel submitted the extensive questions to Hagel in advance of his confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Hagel said Iran needs to show that it is prepared to negotiate seriously. Iran insists that it is not seeking nuclear arms and its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

Hagel said Iran should face "severe and growing consequences" if it continues to flout the international community.

The former Republican senator has faced criticism that he is not sufficiently pro-Israel and tough on Iran.

Meanwhile, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday that local journalists linked to British news media have been arrested but gave few details.

Iran regularly cracks down on foreign media outlets it considers hostile.

The report Wednesday by the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted a statement from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. It did not say how many were arrested or when. It also did not say which media outlets were involved. The report referred to those arrested as a "network," but it did not explain further.

This week Iranian authorities arrested 14 local journalists said to be linked to U.S.¬and British Persian-language media outlets. In recent years, Iran has denounced the Persian services of the Voice of America and the BBC, describing them as arms of U.S. and British intelligence agencies.