Resistance from President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who has fled the northern capital for the south, would raise the prospect of continued instability in the impoverished Central Asian nation, home to both a U.S. air base key to the Afghan war and a Russian military facility.
The opposition controls the capital and says it holds four of the country's seven provinces. Its leader said there were no immediate plans to revisit the current one-year lease on the American base, which runs out in July.
U.S. military officials said Kyrgyzstan halted flights for 12 hours Wednesday at the Manas base during the uprising, and were evasive Thursday when asked if flights had resumed.
This mountainous former Soviet republic erupted Wednesday when protesters called onto the streets by opposition parties for a day of protest began storming government buildings in the capital, Bishkek, and clashed with police in street battles that left dozens dead.
"I have not relinquished and will not relinquish power," Bakiyev wrote, according to the respected news agency 24.kg. "What's more important now is to stop the violence and the crazy rage of the crowd that spilled over the streets and squares of Bishkek and other cities."
Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva, the former foreign minister, said the president was in the southern region of Jalal-Abad, the heart of his political stronghold, and seeking support. This raised some concerns that Bakiyev could try to secure his own survival by exploiting the country's traditional split between more urban northern clans and more rural southern tribal groupings.
Eyewitnesses in the southern part told The Associated Press that the situation there was tense and unstable, and armed men who appeared to be still supporting Bakiyev were present in the region along with others who seemed to be supporting the opposition.
It was not clear if they answered directly to Bakiyev. The new interim defense minister said the armed forces have joined the opposition and will not be used against protesters.
"I am ready to take responsibility for my guilt in the tragic events if the guilt is proven by an objective and unbiased investigation," Bakiyev wrote in his e-mail. "In case of further destabilization the opposition leaders will be hold responsible and punished according to the law."
Otunbayeva said parliament was dissolved and she would head the interim government. She said the new government controlled four of the seven provinces and called on Bakiyev to resign.
"His business in Kyrgyzstan is finished," she said.
Although the opposition has previously voiced objection to Manas, Otunbayeva said there were no plans yet to review the current agreement with the United States. She said her government would meet U.S. diplomats for talks in Bishkek.
"Give us time, it will take time for us to understand and fix the situation," Otunbayeva said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. deplored the violence and urged all to respect the rule of law.
"(We at) Manas have taken all appropriate measures to continue to support operations in Afghanistan," U.S. Air Force Maj. Rickardo Bodden, a public affairs officer, said Thursday. He refused to elaborate for security reasons.
In 2009, Kyrgyzstan said U.S. forces would have to leave Manas, a decision made shortly after Russia granted Kyrgyzstan more than $2 billion in aid and loans. The government later reversed its stance and agreed to a one-year deal with the U.S. that raised the rent to about $63 million a year from $17 million.
The U.S. is also paying $37 million for airport improvements, another $30 million for new navigation systems, and giving the government $51.5 million to combat drug trafficking and terrorism and promote economic development.
Leonid Bondarets, who has been affiliated with the Sweden-based Central Asia and the Caucasus review and think tank, said that as long as Bakiyev has not formally resigned, there is room for trouble.
"It's hard to predict what is going to happen because Bakiyev hasn't stepped down," Bondarets said in a telephone interview from Bishkek. "The situation is still tense."
Kyrgyzstan, which shares a 533-mile (858-kilometer) border with China, is also a gateway to other energy-rich Central Asian countries where China, Russia and the U.S. are competing fiercely for dominance. It is a predominantly Muslim country, but it has remained secular.
The U.S. Embassy denied reports in the Kyrgyz media that U.S. citizens were being evacuated to the Manas air force base, where about 1,200 U.S. troops are stationed. Americans in civilian clothing were seen entering the base Thursday morning.
Russia sent in 150 paratroopers to its base to ensure the safety of the 400 military personnel and their families there, Russian state media reported.
Thousands of protesters have clashed with security forces throughout the country in the last two days, driving out local governments and seizing government headquarters in Bishkek. Elite riot police shot into crowds of protesters in Bishkek on Wednesday and hospitals were overwhelmed with the dead and wounded.
The country's new defense chief, however, said Thursday that the nation's 5 million people now have nothing to fear from the security forces.
"Special forces and the military were used against civilians in Bishkek, Talas and other places," Ismail Isakov said. "This will not happen in the future."
In Bishkek, residents nervously went about their business on a clear spring morning Thursday, the snowcapped mountains visible in the distance. There were no police on the streets.
Most of the government buildings in the capital, as well as Bakiyev's houses, have been looted or set on fire and two major markets were burned down. A paper portrait of Bakiyev at government headquarters was smeared with red paint. Obscenities about him were spray-painted on buildings nearby.
Since coming to power in 2005 amid street protests known as the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev had ensured a measure of stability, but the opposition said he did so at the expense of democratic standards while enriching himself and his family.
He gave his relatives, including his son, top government and economic posts and faced the same accusations of corruption and cronyism that led to the ouster of his predecessor, Askar Akayev.
Otunbayeva blamed Bakiyev for the week's violent clashes.
"Yesterday's events were a response to aggression, tyranny and a crackdown on dissenters," she said. "All the people who were killed and wounded are victims of this regime."
The Health Ministry said at least 74 people were killed and 400 people hospitalized in clashes nationwide Wednesday.
The interim government brings together a wide spectrum of opposition leaders whose differences have undermined them in the past.
One area of consensus was on the decision to repeal the recent sharp increases to utility taxes that provoked widespread anger. Beyond that, the new team of ministers — who range from the socialist Ata-Meken party leader Omurmbek Tekebayev, whose portfolio will include drawing up proposed constitution reforms, to the technocratic interim Finance Minister Temir Sariyev — may have trouble forging a united platform.