Labour MEP Joseph Muscat has said he is willing to work with everybody as he prepares to throw his hat into the ring tomorrow for the Labour Party leadership contest.

"I'm interested in leading the Labour Party for its last term in opposition and then govern with a project. I look forward to being a Labour prime minister at 39," Dr Muscat tells The Sunday Times in an interview today.

Alfred Sant stepped down on March 10, a day after his party succumbed to a third, if narrow, electoral defeat. During a meeting last Tuesday, the MLP decided to hold the election for a new leader on June 5, with Charles Mangion assuming the role of acting leader in the meantime.

The 34-year-old is expected to formally announce his candidacy for the post tomorrow. He is likely to be the first to officially declare he is entering the race, though a number of other heavyweights are expected to join the fray - including Michael Falzon, George Abela and Evarist Bartolo.

Dr Muscat says he is prepared to contest the leadership election by whatever rules are decided by the party or the general conference, insisting that contenders should not try to influence the rules. His views contrast sharply with a proposal made by Dr Abela. Nevertheless, Dr Muscat insists on the need for a clean campaign to ensure that he spends the next five years looking forward, and not watching his back.

Asked whether his perceived closeness with Dr Sant could actually work against his bid, he replies: "I'm my own man. People who know both Alfred and myself know we've always spoken our mind, and we haven't always been full of compliments for one another."

Dr Muscat says he has mapped out a 15-year project for the party and the country, pledging to work to overhaul Labour in the next two years.

Writing in his weekly column today, former Labour minister Lino Spiteri issued a warning to the MLP, saying he hopes that some so-called Labourites will not take their poison pen out of its hiding place during the campaign.

"Vicious anonymous letters have been used too often over the past two decades - and here I am not referring mainly to the poison liberally poured out in my regard in 1992. There were quite a few other despicable examples, honed against individuals who are not impregnable in the face of unlimited viciousness."

Mr Spiteri says the new MLP leader will require good European credentials, acquired by conviction, ability to unite and mobilise, plus a good dose of charisma.

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