The leadership of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party, including Gamal Mubarak, son of President Hosni Mubarak, resigned on Saturday, state television said.
Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera said Mubarak, too, had resigned as head of the party. A party official did not confirm the report but said that if Mubarak had resigned from the party, it would not affect his position as president. "These are two different positions," the official said.
"(The resignation) is very important politically because this party was exploiting the state for the interests of the party, and that has caused a lot of criticism," said analyst Diaa Rashwan.
The outgoing leaders include secretary general Safwat el-Sherif, 77, a pillar of the old guard and speaker of the upper house of parliament.
This development came as US media reported that Egypt’s newly-elected vice-president Omar Suleiman, prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and defence minister Field Marshal Mohammad Tantawi were discussing plans to limit Mubarak’s decision-making authority and possibly remove him from the presidential palace.
Quoting US and Egyptian officials, New York Times reported that the troika’s plans did not call for Mubarak to be stripped of the presidency immediately. It said the army’s backing was being sought to make Suleiman the head of an interim government that would negotiate with the political opposition for an election timetable.
Among the ideas mooted was a plan to move Mubarak to his home town Sharm-al-Sheikh, or to Germany for an extended medical check-up, thereby giving the 82-year-old a graceful way out, NYT said.
"They know each other well and trying to find a way out of this crisis. They want to do this without spilling blood and without hurting the dignity of Egypt or Mubarak while fulfilling the demand of the masses," the officials were quoted as saying.
Plagued by protests for the last 12 days, Egypt seemed to plunge further into chaos on Saturday with a massive explosion and fire at a gas terminal in northern Sinai Peninsula that didn't kill anyone but led to talk of a bomb blast and sabotage. However, Egypt's natural gas company said the fire was caused by a gas leak.
Meanwhile, US television network Fox News said Suleiman had survived an assassination bid on January 29 - the day he became vice-president - that left two of his bodyguards dead. But a senior Egyptian security source denied this.