A senior official in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) said on Tuesday the party had chosen Mubarak as its candidate. But the next day Mubarak's son, Gamal, also a party official, said no decision had been taken and said it was up to the president to decide.

Analysts say there is little doubt Mubarak, 76, will stand and that he will be chosen by the NDP-dominated parliament as the sole candidate in the September referendum. But they say officials want to avoid the impression that Egyptians have no say in the matter.

Asked if he would run for another presidential term, Mubarak said in an interview with US public broadcaster PBS on Thursday: "This is too early to tell you about that. I haven't decided yet. We have a long time for that."

Parliament vote

Parliament is expected to vote in May on who will go through to the referendum, but Mubarak said his decision could come after that date.

"I am working very hard, and if the people wanted me to stay, I have to bend my neck and continue the work"

Egyptian President Husni Mubarak

"I am working very hard, and if the people wanted me to stay, I have to bend my neck and continue the work. I can tell you, it is not an easy job. It is very difficult and needs tremendous effort," he said in comments from the interview transcript.

In another recent interview, Mubarak said he welcomed rival candidates. Three prominent intellectuals have announced their intention to run for president in a symbolic challenge.

Reformers have called for a constitutional amendment to allow more than one candidate to run. The United States has also called for democratic change in Egypt and the Middle East.

No constitution change 

The NDP has said it will not consider changing the constitution until after this year's elections.

"There is a realisation people are looking at Egypt to change the way it is (carrying out) the issue of elections," said Abd al-Munim Said, director of Egypt's al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

But he said there was no sign of any constitutional change before the referendum. "Now, it is the issue of how to make it (the referendum) convincing," he said.

Abd Allah al-Sinawi, the editor-in-chief of the Al-Arbi newspaper and the spokesperson for the opposition Nasiri Party told Aljazeera from Cairo that the president's statement represented a change in his position.

"President Mubarak's announcement definitely expresses a kind of response to the will of Egyptians who seek free elections," he said.

"I address the president: this is half the way Mr President; the other half of the way is to respect the people of Egypt's will by carrying out a real constitutional amendment and allowing more than one candidate to run presidential election."