Layla Abdul Latif, labour minister in Iyad Allawi's interim government, faces a preliminary hearing into allegations that she misused public money.

She denies any wrongdoing, but said ministers in Allawi's government, which served from June 2004 until April 2005, were unable to change a system that was already corrupt when it was inherited from Saddam.

"I will go to court because I fear nothing, my hands are clean and I will defend myself," she told journalists on Tuesday.

"I admit we have serious corruption cases in our ministries, but I do not understand why they come after me. All they're trying to do is draw attention away from the deteriorating security situation and the instability."

Corruption investigations

The case is one of five to emerge so far from investigations conducted by Iraq's anti-corruption authorities as they try to tackle what international watchdogs have described as rampant corruption in post-war Iraq.

Besides Latif's case, a judge is also expected to hear allegations of corruption at the Transport Ministry.

The trials resulted from investigations carried out by the Commission on Public Integrity, a body formed by Paul Bremer - the former US governor of occupied Iraq.

Since it was established in January 2004, the commission has opened hundreds of files based on allegations from anonymous tips and ministerial inspectors.