New Delhi: Faisal Makdad, Syria’s junior foreign minister, has urged his country’s opposition to defuse tensions after violent weekend clashes between pro-democracy groups and the government claimed some 140 lives.

Makdad, who was in New Delhi to brief India on the volatile situation, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had proposed political reforms and readied drafts for laws on multi-party democracy, holding elections, media transparency and the right to demonstration.

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“Once we approve these laws, you will see a lively, vital and democratic multi-party system in Syria that will be an example and the envy of all neighbouring countries," he said late Tuesday. “We have enough time to do this and we will do this."

Syrian protesters are demanding Assad’s ouster and deeper democratic reforms.

No respite: A file photo of people protesting against President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor, Syria. Reports say government has launched a fresh campaign against protesters in major cities, including Hama. Reuters

He named India as one of Syria’s friends in the Security Council, counting Russia, China, Lebanon, Brazil and South Africa as its other allies in the panel.

India was elected as one of the 10 non-permanent members of UNSC last year and took its seat in January. On Monday, it assumed the month-long rotating presidency.

In New York, the council late Tuesday struggled through negotiations on how to respond to the Syrian crisis on a day the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said Assad had “lost all humanity", AFP reported.

Divisions remained within the 15-member body on the wording of any condemnation of Assad’s crackdown on protests and whether it should be a formal resolution or merely a statement.

France, the UK, Germany, Portugal and the US have been trying to get a resolution passed for two months, but Russia and China, two of the five permanent council members, have threatened to veto any such move. Brazil, India and South Africa have also opposed council action, suggesting it could lead to a Libya-style international military campaign against Assad.

The protests in Syria followed pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year that led to the overthrow of long-ruling dictators in those countries.

Italy on Tuesday recalled its ambassador from Damascus, Syria’s capital, days after the European Union imposed a fresh set of sanctions, including an asset freeze and travel ban on Assad and some of his family members, besides an arms embargo.

Makdad described as exaggerated media reports that have put the death toll in the pro-democracy protests at 1,600 since March and rejected accusations that all these deaths were caused by government troops firing on protesters.

He also dismissed reports of Syrian security forces using tanks, gunfire and mass arrests in efforts to quell the revolt as propaganda by the Western media and other groups.