The US is pushing the Syrian opposition to maintain dialogue with Bashar al-Assad’s regime as details emerge of a controversial “roadmap” for reforms that would leave him in power for now despite demands for his overthrow during the country’s bloody three-month uprising.

Syrian opposition sources say US state department officials have been discreetly encouraging discussion of the unpublished draft document, which circulated at an unprecedented opposition conference held on Monday in Damascus. But Washington denies backing it.

Assad would oversee what the roadmap calls “a secure and peaceful transition to civil democracy”. It calls for tighter control over the security forces, the disbanding of “shabiha” gangs accused of atrocities, the legal right to peaceful demonstrations, extensive media freedoms, and the appointment of a transitional assembly.