CAIRO (Reuters) - Ahmed Shafiq, a former Egyptian air force commander and close associate of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, said Thursday he planned to stand in the country's presidential elections, insisting that experience was more important than background.

Mubarak appointed Shafiq as prime minister as an uprising against his rule gathered pace in late January.

Shafiq held onto the post for three weeks following Mubarak's overthrow before the army removed him in a cabinet reshuffle to meet popular demands for a purge of the former president's associates.

Since then the 70-year-old Shafiq has largely withdrawn from public life.

Asked by Aswat Masriya (Egyptian Voices), a website set up by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, if he would make a presidential bid, Shafiq said: "Yes, I intend to run for president."

Some Egyptians believe the generals who took power after the overthrow of Mubarak -- himself a former air force commander -- plan to back an ex-military figure to run for president in order to keep hold of the levers of power.

Shafiq tried to distance himself from his military past.

"Every candidate relies on his popularity and administrative and political experience. The military service is beside the point," Shafiq added.

Shafiq said he had not decided when to begin his election campaign and he may even withdraw from the race if "a more suitable candidate" appears.

Posters appeared across central Cairo Wednesday calling for Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council, to run for president. By Thursday morning, several of them had been removed.

Pro-democracy activists said they feared associates of Mubarak were behind the campaign.

Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa are on trial for corruption and abuse of power.

The presidential elections are expected to take place in late 2012 or early the next year. Parliamentary polls are due to begin on November 28.