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Top leaders of Egypt's ruling party resign amid continued protests

According to television reports, the top leadership of Egypt's ruling party has resigned. World leaders and protesters in Cairo have continued to call for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Egyptian protesters hold a big banner during a demonstration in Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, 04 February 2011

Protests continued in the streets of Cairo on Saturday

The leadership of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party on Saturday resigned en masse, among them the son of President Hosni Mubarak, Gamal. The NDP executive has six members, including its secretary general. Hossam Badrawi has been named as the new secretary general of the party.

The resignations were reported by the country's Al-Arabyia television network. Earlier reports that Mubarak himself had stepped down as party leader were later retracted by the broadcaster.

Mubarak, who has been in office for 30 years, earlier in the week has admitted that he fears chaos if he were to step down immediately and used a perceived threat from Islamist militants to solidify his position.

The news broke following the first talks between Mubarak and members of his cabinet at the presidential palace after the removal of the previous government last week.

In the capital, Cairo, tens of thousands of demonstrators have continued to protest for Mubarak to step down as president.

At the epicenter of the protests on Tahrir Square, the situation remained relatively calm on Saturday. Protesters said they would not leave the central square until their demands for change are met.

Increasing pressure on Mubarak


President Barack Obama speaks about Egypt during his joint news conference with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011

Obama called for a transition of power in Egypt to begin "now"

Friday was marked by massive crowds of protesters in Tahrir Square, for what had been called the "Day of Departure," but Mubarak stayed in power despite growing international appeals for him to step down.

US President Barack Obama, while not explicitly saying the Egyptian leader should leave, said, "There needs to be a transition process that begins now," adding that the "patriot" should "listen to what is being voiced by the Egyptian people."

"We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis," he said, as Egyptian authorities called for protesters thronging central Cairo to go home but also vowed not to use force.

In Brussels, leaders of the 27-nation European Union also weighed in.

In a statement, they said the "transition process must start now" and condemned the recent violence, hinting that if the government cracked down on the protesters there could be a suspension in aid.

a fire is seen after an explosion went off at a gas terminal in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday Feb. 5, 2011

An explosion rocked the site of a gas pipeline in Egypt early on Saturday

Sinai gas explosion

Meanwhile, on the Sinai Peninsula Saturday, Egyptian state TV reported an explosion and massive fire at a gas pipeline with branches that run from Egypt to Israel and Jordan. The state has attributed the blast to "terrorists," but said there was little damage to the pipeline.

However, as a result of the blast, gas supply to Jordan has been interrupted.

"As a result of the explosion, the National Electricity Co (NEC) has been obliged to replace Egyptian gas with heavy fuel for the generation of power," NEC Director General Ghaleb Maabreh said in a statement.

Jordan usually relies on Egypt's supply of gas for 80 percent of its requirements for running power plants, according to German press agency dpa.

Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel's natural gas, and in December four Israeli firms signed 20-year contracts worth up to $10 billion (7.4 billion euros) to import Egyptian gas.

Author: Andreas Illmer, Stuart Tiffen (Reuters, AFP)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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