UNITED NATIONS - Iran is under investigation for new attempts to import items from North Korea and China that are banned under UN sanctions against Tehran's nuclear and missile programs, UN diplomats said on Tuesday.

The information emerged on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting to discuss a quarterly report on Iran's compliance with four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Tehran for refusing to halt a nuclear enrichment program that Western powers fear is aimed at producing bombs.

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Iran says its nuclear program is intended solely for generating electricity.

Colombian UN Ambassador Nestor Osorio, who chairs the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee, did not publicly provide details of the two incidents. He did, however, tell the council that both cases were being investigated by the Iran sanctions committee and a UN panel of experts.

Osorio said "the increase in the number of reported sanctions violations is a matter of serious concern."

A Security Council diplomat provided Reuters with details of the investigations of the suspected violations. They involved attempts by Iran to import aluminum powder and phosphor bronze, both banned items.

"The aluminum powder was from DPRK (North Korea) and interdicted by Singapore," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "The phosphor bronze was seized in South Korea from a Chinese company."

Another UN envoy confirmed the diplomat's remarks.

The first diplomat said the Chinese authorities cooperated in the seizure of the phosphor bronze. There was no indication that the government was involved or had approved of the attempted shipment, the diplomat said.

The applications of the aluminum powder and phosphor bronze were not immediately clear but the diplomats said Iran was banned from importing both substances due to possible uses in its nuclear and missile programs. North Korea also is under sanctions and forbidden from exporting such items.

'Clear Violations'

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the council that the two incidents were clear violations of the sanctions. He also complained about a shipment of Iranian weapons allegedly bound for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Another suspected violation by Iran was a shipment of weapons that Israel said was bound for the Gaza Strip.

On March 15, Israeli naval commandos seized a cargo ship in the Mediterranean carrying what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said were Iranian-supplied weapons intended for Palestinian militants in Gaza.

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Israel's UN ambassador, Meron Reuben, sent a letter to the Security Council last week complaining about the shipment and urging the council to "take firm action to prevent arms smuggling to terrorist organizations and to prevent the ongoing illicit transfers of arms from Iran."

In addition to a ban on importing nuclear and missile technology, the council has banned all arms exports by Tehran.

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