CAIRO -- Egypt's new leadership scrambled Sunday to overcome differences that have delayed the naming of a prime minister, seeking to fill a political vacuum as supporters and opponents of ousted Mohammed Morsi rallied across the nation.
Against the backdrop of protests and the threat of violence, Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, a former lawmaker and ex-head of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, emerged as a strong candidate for the premiership, according to the media adviser to army-installed interim President Adly Mansour. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, whose own nomination for prime minister was opposed by a key Mansour ally, is being discussed as a potential vice president, the adviser said, adding announcements could be made today.
The military forced Mr. Morsi out, just a year into his term, after months of discontent with his leadership came to a head in days of mass protests. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand he step down, accusing him of betraying the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak by grabbing power for his Islamist backers and exacerbating Egypt's economic plight and political rifts.
The turmoil convulsing Egypt after Mr. Morsi's removal sparked clashes on July 5 that killed about three dozen people and wounded more than 1,000. Compounding the unease is what Mr. Morsi's backers say has been a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Mr. Morsi hailed.
Mr. Bahaa-Eldin told Al Hayat television late Sunday that he was "seriously" considering the job of prime minister. "The difficulty is that the country is severely divided," he said. "We now need a national project that people can unite around" regardless of ideological differences.
The Salafi Nour Party, which opposed naming Mr. ElBaradei as prime minister, citing his opposition to Islamist groups, appeared divided over Mr. Bahaa-Eldin. Nour official Ibrahim Abaza said that while the party was yet to take a final decision on its support, it favored a non-political figure for the post. Bassam Al Zarqa, a deputy leader of the party, had earlier described Mr. Bahaa-Eldin as a "qualified, respectable, liberal figure" on Al Hayat.
Mr. Mansour faces the challenge of lifting the Arab world's most populous nation from its political crisis, a situation made worse by a weak economy. Net international reserves fell to $14.9 billion in June, the central bank said Sunday, less than half the level when Mubarak was overthrown.
Growth is near its feeblest in two decades and unemployment at a record 13.2 percent. A bid for a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan has yet to be accepted, and the country has been relying on aid, primarily from Qatar.
"Building and maintaining a level of consensus and inclusivity in governance that was so lacking under Morsi is key for the transitional government," Oliver Coleman, senior Middle East analyst at Maplecroft, a risk analysis company in Bath, England, said in a response to emailed questions. "If they are to avoid constant and potential violent protests, this will mean bringing the Muslim Brotherhood into the process to end the polarization that has caused this crisis. If they don't manage this, the divides will remain."
As the Brotherhood and its allies vowed to broaden their protests against the president's ouster, U.S. diplomats sought to persuade the Islamist group to accept his overthrow, its officials said.
Continuing a push for accommodation that began before the removal of Mr. Morsi last week, the U.S. diplomats contacted Brotherhood leaders to try to persuade them to re-enter the political process, an Islamist briefed on one of the conversations said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
"They are asking us to legitimize the coup," the Islamist said, arguing that accepting the removal of an elected president would be the death of Egyptian democracy. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo declined to comment.
Egypt's ambassador to the U.S., Mohamed Tawfik, said on ABC News' "This Week" that members of the Brotherhood need to acknowledge the mistakes that they made, and should join the national dialogue so elections can take place "as quickly as we possibly can put it together."
Waving Egyptian flags, anti-Morsi demonstrators descended on the iconic Tahrir Square and on a presidential complex in Cairo on Sunday. Backers of the ousted Islamist president also gathered in the capital's Nasr City district, with some chanting "Morsi is my president," according to television footage.
The military vowed to protect "peaceful protesters in all of Egypt's squares" and warned against any "provocative acts" in a statement on the Facebook page of its spokesman.
"Our country is finally back and we shall defend what we have achieved," 19-year-old Ahmed Ali, who took part in one of the marches to Tahrir, said Sunday. "There's no place for those who use Islam to deceive and control people in the new Egypt."
Mr. Morsi's supporters decry what they say is a "military coup" and say they want him reinstated.
The National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy, an alliance of groups backing Mr. Morsi, said in an emailed statement that it will continue with "peaceful escalation" to achieve its ends.
Military warplanes swooped over the anti-Morsi crowd filling Tahrir Square, drawing a heart shape and an Egyptian flag in the sky with colored smoke. Large banners read "Obama, hands off, a message to the USA. Obama supports the terrorists of 911" with a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama with an Islamist's beard.
Throughout Mr. Morsi's year in office, many of his opponents accused the United States of backing his administration. Washington often underlined that it was dealing with Mr. Morsi as the country's elected leader.
Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday criticized the toppling of the president, calling the move improper in its first official reaction.
"We do not consider proper the intervention by military forces in politics to replace a democratically elected administration," said ministry spokesman Abbas Araghchi, according to the official news agency IRNA.
Associated Press and The New York Times contributed.