By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A New York City man who runs a metallurgy company pleaded guilty on Tuesday to having conspired to illegally export missile-grade metallic powder to Iran, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Erdal Kuyumcu, 44, admitted to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act at a hearing before Chief Judge Dora Irizarry of the U.S. district court in Brooklyn.

Patrick Mullin, a lawyer for Kuyumcu, declined to comment on the plea.

Kuyumcu, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Turkish descent, is the chief executive of Global Metallurgy LLC, also in New York.

Prosecutors said he conspired to obtain more than 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of cobalt-nickel metallic powder, which can be used in aerospace, missile production and nuclear applications, for export to Iran.

The Justice Department said the U.S. government closely regulates the powder to combat nuclear proliferation and protect national security, and that exporting it requires a license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to prosecutors, Kuyumcu and a co-conspirator hid the final destination of their powder by arranging for it to be shipped through Turkey, before being sent on to Iran.

"We vehemently dispute the notion that the coating powder sold by my client can be used for either missile production or nuclear application," Mullin said in a phone interview. "It is rather used primarily for industrial purposes."

The defendant faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21.

The case is U.S. v. Kuyumcu, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00308.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Steve Orlofsky)