Parliament in December had ordered the audit bureau, the state's accounting watchdog, to investigate allegations that al-Sharar was to blame for squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds.

The charges were made during a questioning session by liberal members of parliament Ahmad al-Mulaifi and Ali al-Rashid who said the minister had either taken part in alleged graft or failed to stop corruption in departments under his authority.

In its report, the audit bureau confirmed a number of the claims and complained that it did not receive enough cooperation from some government agencies.

Resignation demand

"The report confirms our claims ... I call on the minister to act in a brave manner: Take responsibility and quit," al-Rashid said.

"The report confirms our claims ... I call on the minister to act in a brave manner: Take responsibility and quit"

Lawmaker Ali al-Rashid

"This is a historic opportunity to declare war on corruption ... the minister should be held accountable and I advise him to resign. It's time to leave," MP Walid al-Tabtabai said.

But al-Sharar told Monday's assembly session he had already sent parts of the report to the public prosecution to launch a criminal investigation into the allegations.

MPs backing al-Sharar accused his opponents of targeting the minister for personal reasons and because he "belongs to Kuwaiti tribes".

The deputy premier had survived a no-confidence vote following similar questioning in March 2003.

Last week, Muhammad Ahmad al-Jar Allah resigned as health minister after facing a stormy grilling in parliament over allegations of graft.