“ElBaradei is our first choice,” a source close to the military high command said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

“He’s an international figure, popular with young people and believes in a democracy that would include all political forces. He is also popular among some Islamist groups,” the source said.

Political sources said ElBaradei, who won the Nobel peace prize for his work as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), would also be acceptable to Western governments that have bent over backwards to avoid calling the removal of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood a military coup.