Kofi Annan, Right
Kofi Annan, RightReuters

Syrian tanks resumed their shelling of the central city of Homs on Friday just hours before former UN secretary general Kofi Annan began his bid for peace in the country.

Annan has called for dialogue to reach a political solution to a year of popular uprisings against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The killing has to stop and we need to find a way of putting in the appropriate reforms and moving forward," he said in Cairo where he met Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.

He also warned against further militarization of the crisis, amid a groundswell of international support for arming a rebel insurgency that has emerged in Syria.

The mostly army defectors of the Syrian Free Army are heavily outgunned by Assad's army, secret police, and feared Alawite militias.

"I believe further militarization will make the situation worse," Annan, who is headed to Damascus this weekend, said.

"I hope that no one is very seriously thinking of using force in this situation," he added.

Friday's shelling came one day after UN aid chief Valerie Amos was allowed to visit the devastated city, where at least 700 were killed in a month of shelling by Assad's forces.

Amos had requested access to the city when the shelling of the Baba Amr neighborhood initially stopped on March 1, but Syrian officials refused citing "security concerns."

In the intervening week, reports of "mop up operations" by Syrian forces that included rape, torture, and summary executions flowed from the city.

The renewed shelling of Homs came as major clashes between Syrian troops and SFA fighters in the towns of Herak and Rastan, both of which have also come under artillery fire.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 18 more killed on Thursday, while the grassroots Local Coordination Committees put the death toll at 62, including 44 people in Homs.

Rifts among five permanent members of the UN Security Council have blocked uniform action to resolve the crisis. China and Russia firmly oppose Western-backed sanctions and military intervention.

UN officials say Syrian security forces have killed over 7,500 people in Assad’s brutal year-long crackdown on dissent.