Zimbabwe's first female vice-president, Joyce Mujuru, has taken over as acting head of state during President Robert Mugabe's year-end vacation.
Officials say Mr. Mugabe left Harare late Monday to travel to Malaysia, and is expected to return early next month.
The state-run Herald newspaper says Vice President Mujuru will serve in his absence, becoming the first woman to hold the nation's highest office.
Ms. Mujuru was approved as one of Zimbabwe's two vice presidents during a ruling party conference earlier this month. She had served as water minister and fought in the country's guerrilla war for independence in the 1970s.
In an interview with South African television on Monday, Ms. Mujuru said she may seek Zimbabwe's presidency in 2008 elections, when Mr. Mugabe is due to retire.
Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.