A United Nations Security Council committee confirmed on Tuesday that Iran violated U.N. sanctions by trying to send a ship with weapons to Syria. The high-explosive shells, including those than can pierce armor, and anti-tank explosives may have been destined for Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Hizbullah in Iran or Syrian-backed Iraqis, Council diplomats told the Associated Press.

The U.N. has banned Iran from exporting weapons or materials for the manufacture of arms.

The ship, chartered by the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been docked in Cyprus since January 29, when Cypriot authorities unloaded it and said there were no weapons aboard, although it found material that could be used to make ammunition.

However, United States military inspectors found artillery shells on the ship when it stopped in the Red Sea and said it was destined for Syria.

The U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee told Cypriot authorities that the shipment contravened the U.N. sanctions. Officials from Cyprus said the weapons may be defused "at the appropriate time." Britain offered to help neutralize the explosives.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice condemned the violation, and France and Britain expressed concern. Iran and Syria were ordered to explain the shipment, but the U.N. has not stated if there will be any punitive action.

The sanctions were clamped on Iran after it refused to suspend its program for enriching uranium, a key material for manufacturing a nuclear weapon.