CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his family have left Cairo for the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, proving he is giving up his presidential powers, a ruling party official said on Friday.
Protesters seeking Mubarak's overthrow moved overnight to the Ittihadiya presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis for the first time since demonstrations began on Jan. 25.
"President Mubarak has begun carrying out the transfer of his authorities to his deputy Omar Suleiman by heading to Sharm el-Sheikh," Mohammed Abdillah, head of media with the National Democratic Party, told Reuters. "President Mubarak is intent on carrying out his vows to himself."
Al Arabiya television station reported that it had confirmed the arrival of the president, who said on Thursday he was handing powers to Vice President Suleiman, and his family in the tourist town.
In Cairo, protesters gathered up against a barbed wire cordon around the presidential palace, about 50 metres (yards) from the palace walls at its closest point. Tanks and soldiers of the elite Republican Guard, responsible for the president's security, surrounded the palace, a Reuters witness said.
"The Republican Guard are protecting the presidential palaces," an armed forces source told Reuters.
Al Arabiya had initially reported Mubarak and his family had left Egypt.
The president has spent an increasing amount of time in Sharm el-Sheikh over the past decade, choosing to meet many foreign leaders there.
A popular tourist destination in the Sinai peninsula which Egypt got back from Israel after a peace treaty in 1979, Sharm el-Sheikh is a world away from the pollution, congestion and poverty of Cairo.
Many tourists from Europe fly straight into the resort, famed for its nightclubs and beaches, on charter flights that avoid the Nile valley where most of Egypt's more than 80 million people live.
The resort is only a short distance from Saudi Arabia, where Tunisia's leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to exile after a similar popular uprising in January.
(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul, Marwa Awad and Jonathan Wright; writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by David Stamp)
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