China's March crude oil imports from Iran rose more than a third from a year ago, keeping imports in the first three months of 2014 close to the levels seen before western sanctions were applied more than two years ago. China's intake from Iran in March rose 36.1 percent to 555,182 barrels per day (bpd), customs data showed on Monday, in keeping with the rise in exports from the OPEC member after the November nuclear deal that eased some sanctions on Tehran, Reuters reported. Under the temporary deal, Iran's exports are supposed to be held at an average 1 million barrels bpd for the six months to July 20, but shipments to Asia have topped that level since November, according to customs and ship tracking data. China's imports have been higher this year largely due to new volumes of condensate, a super light crude, and also because top refiner Sinopec Corp may have boosted liftings under a long-term agreement, traders said. China's oil arrivals from Iran in the first quarter of this year were at 557,605 bpd, up 36.2 percent from a year ago. On a daily basis, China's March imports of Iranian oil climbed 0.5 percent from February's 552,613 bpd. Ship loading data seen last week by Reuters shows that China's crude and condensate intake this month - based on March tanker schedules - should be around 562,000 bpd before jumping to more than 600,000 bpd in May.