But, in the interview broadcast by the Dubai satellite channel Al-Arabiya on Sunday, he also said that governing Egypt was hard work and he would like to relax "if it was up to me".

Mubarak's remarks were the latest in a series touching on whether he will seek a fifth term this year, but it was still not fully clear what course he would take.

"I could put on an act for you and say I won't stay. The world would rise up in protest and I would have messed everything up. I don't like to play these con games... I am a man who's serious in my work and I work from morning till I go to sleep every day," he said.

Not a picnic

But he also said: "Governing Egypt is not a picnic, not something easy... You have limited resources, high population growth and the requirements of the people.

"So the presidency of Egypt is not an easy business, and getting out of it isn't easy. If it was up to me, I would like to relax. From the day I graduated as a young officer, as I say, it's been hard work all along."

Mubarak has denied rumours that
his son Gamal will replace him

Mubarak, 76, has been in power since 1981, when he took office after the assassination of president Anwar Sadat.

He said in the interview that he took the presidency because, as vice-president, he felt a responsibility to do so. 

"He who becomes president of Egypt, that's the will of the people. [If] the people don't want you, when you do whatever, it's no use. And if the people want you, you won't be able to leave," he added.

Gamal for president?

He again dismissed rumours that he is grooming his 41-year-old son Gamal for the presidency, saying that Gamal was merely helping him.

Under the Egyptian constitution, parliament, which is dominated by Mubarak's National Democratic Party, will choose a sole presidential candidate later this year. Egyptians can then vote on the candidate in a yes-no referendum.

A senior NDP official said last week that the party had nominated Mubarak but Gamal said the decision was up to the president and the process had not yet started.

Opposition parties and many civil society leaders want the system changed to allow multi-candidate elections but the NDP has ruled out any constitutional amendments this year.