United Nations: The UN Security Council on Thursday condemned the Syrian government's violent crackdown on civilians demanding democratic reforms and widespread human rights violations.

In a presidential statement read by Indian Ambassador to the UN, Hardeep Singh Puri, the Council called for an immediate end to violence and asked all sides to act with "utmost restraint, and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks against state institutions.”

"The Security Council expresses its grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, and expresses profound regret at the death of many hundreds of people. The Council condemns the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities," the statement read.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Council's statement, saying it is the "clear message of the international community."

He asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to immediately cease all violence against his people and to "fully respect human rights."

The statement came after days of deliberations among the 15-member body on how to react to the large scale violence, killings and arrests in the Syrian uprising.

Speaking to reporters after the UNSC meeting, Moon said the Syrian authorities should implement reforms and comply with the Security Council's demand to allow independent and unimpeded access to international humanitarian agencies and to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Council also expressed regret over the lack in progress in implementing the reforms.

Terming the actions in Syria as brutally shocking, Moon said the killings should be investigated fully, independently and transparently and those responsible should be held to account.

The Council stated the Syrian authorities should respect human rights and comply with their obligations under applicable international law.

"Those responsible for the violence should be held accountable. It stresses that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process, with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population," the Council added.

The Security Council also asked Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon for an update on the situation in Syria within seven days.
Moon said he will address all aspects of human rights violations in his report in an unbiased and impartial manner.

He said his efforts will include trying to talk to President Assad directly. While weaker than a resolution, a presidential statement still becomes part of the Security Council's record.

European and US council members had been pressing for a legally binding resolution that would strongly condemn Syria. But Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa had been arguing that condemnation would not promote negotiations, promised reforms by Assad and an end to the violence. The statement dropped references to a human rights inquiry that Britain, France, Germany and Portugal had called for in their earlier versions of the text.

At least 160 individuals have reportedly been killed, mostly in Hama since Friday as security forces used tanks, mortar shells and heavy machine guns against civilian demonstrators.

Several other people have been killed in Deir Ez Zur, as well as the suburbs of Damascus, the capital, and other towns and cities across Syria.

(Agencies)