Cairo, Egypt -- Apparent fissures in Egypt's regime surfaced Saturday as key members of the embattled ruling party, including President Hosni Mubarak's once heir-apparent son, resigned their party leadership posts and the vice president began talks with opposition leaders.
In the strongest gesture yet to satisfy angry Egyptians who have been protesting for 12 days, members of the general secretariat of the ruling National Democratic Party stepped down from those leadership positions, state television reported.
The embattled Mubarak, however, remained in his position as head of the party's higher council and as head of state despite popular demands that he relinquish power immediately.
Mubarak's son, Gamal, the once presumptive heir, was among those who resigned party posts, meaning that he is no longer eligible to take over after his father.
Mubarak has already announced he will not seek re-election in a September vote. Gamal Mubarak's resignation effectively puts to rest a widespread belief that the embattled president was preparing for a dynastic handover.
The United States has been mounting pressure on Mubarak to step aside and Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at a security conference in Germany, said it is "important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice president Omar Suleiman."
U.S. President Barack Obama, in phone calls with foreign leaders Saturday, emphasized the importance of an "orderly, peaceful transition" to a government that is "responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."
The diplomatic official who delivered a message from the Obama administration to Egypt's leadership this week, however, said Mubarak "remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future" and must stay in office.