CAIRO—Egypt's opposition groups lined up behind a moderate leader comfortable on the world stage as their best chance to oust President Hosni Mubarak Sunday, while the nation's military closed ranks with the government leadership but allowed protests to continue raging in the streets.
The moves continued to sharpen the country's clash over whether Mubarak would resign. Events here present difficult choices for the U.S., which has been attempting to push for both the stability that the military offers and the sweeping political changes demanded by the opposition. There was no indication that the two sides would meet or hold discussions.
State television showed footage of Mubarak with his newly appointed vice president, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, meeting Egypt's top army commanders Sunday. The images appeared to be a bid to show that control of the armed forces was still in the hands of Mubarak and his regime.
Fragmented opposition groups, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, put aside sometimes strident differences to unify behind Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate who often tangled with U.S. officials when he led the United Nations agency inspecting Iran's nuclear program. His entry in Egyptian politics is more recent. He came to Cairo last week only after the protest movement had gathered steam on its own.
Egypt's opposition groups have had a checkered past, with ideological divides and personal animosities sapping them against the might of the Mubarak regime. For now, their solidarity appears to be holding. ElBaradei's endorsement by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best-organized opposition force, amounted to a historic display of unity between the country's secular and Islamist opposition forces.
The umbrella organization that organized the protests formed a steering committee on Sunday under ElBaradei to pressure the regime for more political concessions, according to senior Brotherhood leaders.
ElBaradei said in televised remarks that he looked forward to working with the military to help establish order and forge Egypt's new political future. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, he said: "The first step is [Mubarak] has to go…The second step is we have to have a government of national salvation in coordination with the army. The third step is the army has that horrible task of ensuring security." He warned the U.S. that its failure to disavow the current government was causing it to "lose credibility by the day."