Egypt remains in political confusion and traumatized by fatal sectarian clashes. The naming by reformists of the liberal Mohamed ElBaradei as interim prime minister has been thrown into doubt by Islamist objections.
The political transition sought in Egypt by reformists and backed by the military was in doubt on Sunday after officials made a U-turn on naming Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei (pictured above) as interim prime minister.
Underscoring the volatility, the Pentagon said US Defense Chuck Hagel had had three conversations with Egypt's military head General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since Friday and had "emphasized the need for a peaceful civilian transition."
And, US President Barack Obama said that the United States, which has long funded Egypt's military, was "not aligned" with any political grouping.
The machinations followed the Egyptian army's removal of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday after huge protests led by the reform grassroots movement Tamarod which sought to highlight widespread disillusionment with Morsi's governance.
On Friday, clashes across Egypt between pro- and anti-Morsi factions left at least 35 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded.
Denial from presidential aide
ElBaradei was named as interim premier by Tamarod late on Saturday, prompting cheers from anti-Morsi protestors in central Cairo but drawing a rapid denial by a spokesman for interim president Adly Mansour.
His spokesman, Ahmed el-Musilamani, said there were several options for the job and the presidency had to take account of opposition - reportedly from the ultraconservative Salafi el-Nour party - to ElBaradei getting the job.
El-Musilamani added, however, that ElBaradei was "the logical choice."
More protests due Sunday
El-Nour, Egypt's second Islamist force after Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, had previously agreed to the army-backed transition plan leading to new elections. Its withdrawal from the process could remove key Islamist endorsement.
The Brotherhood, which wants Morsi reinstated, called for another day of protest on Sunday. Morsi himself has remained out of public view since Wednesday and was widely thought to be in detention.
Tamarod too called for demonstrations on Sunday to counter the Islamists.
Late on Saturday, state media said Egypt's public prosecutor had ordered the detention for a further 15 days of four top Brotherhood leaders, including Khairat El-Shater, the Islamist group's political strategist.
ElBaradei, 71, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He returned to Egypt in 2010 and became a opponent of ex-president Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak, a veteran strongman, was overthrown in an uprising in early 2011.
ipj/jm (AFP, Reuters AP)