MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Foreign Ministry praised Arab League observers in Syria on Friday who were sent to check whether government forces have halted violence against protesters and said their comments were "reassuring."
"Judging by the public statements made by the chief of the mission M. al-Dabi, who in the first of his visits went to the city of Homs...the situation seems to be reassuring," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
In an initial tour of the protest hotbed city of Homs, Sudanese general Mustafa al-Dabi raised international concern over the mission's credibility with a comment that he had seen "nothing frightening." He said more time was needed to make a final judgment.
Moscow remains one of the last allies of Damascus following nine months of violence that the United Nations says has killed 5,000 people and isolated President Bashar al-Assad from most of the international community.
Russia, which has supported the Arab League monitoring mission from the start, called on the Syrian leadership to continue working constructively with the mission.
"We are counting on the professionalism and objectivity of the participants in the mission of Arab observers," said the Russian statement.
"We consider it very important to ensure consolidated support for the realization of the assignments that stand before the Arab League observers on international and regional levels."
Russia has submitted a revised United Nations draft resolution condemning the bloodshed but has stopped short of blaming the Syrian leadership, which accounted for seven percent of Russia's total of $10 billion in arms deliveries abroad in 2010, according to the Russian defense think tank CAST.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have raised questions about the choice of Dabi, a senior Sudanese general, to lead the observer mission.
Dabi was head of Sudan's military intelligence in the early 1990s, a time when rights groups say opposition figures were detained and tortured. He also held posts in Darfur at a time when International Criminal Court prosecutors say Sudanese authorities committed genocide.
(Reporting By Thomas Grove; Editing by Peter Graff)