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Tigers warning over autonomy fight
Updated: 2004-04-06 09:53

Tamil Tiger rebels have warned they would fight if their demands to establish a sovereign Tamil state in Sri Lanka were not met.

In their first reaction to parliamentary elections won by hardline President Chandrika Kumaratunga's political alliance, the Tigers said minority Tamils made it clear they wanted autonomy.

The rebels said they hoped a political solution would be found.

If not, "the Tamil people will fight to establish the Tamil sovereignty in their homeland," a pro-rebel TamilNet Web site said, quoting a guerrilla communique.

The rebels' proxy party, Tamil National Alliance, emerged as the third largest party in Friday's vote with 22 seats in the 225-member Parliament.

Kumaratunga's political alliance garnered 105 and the outgoing prime minister's party secured 82 seats.

By giving Tamil National Alliance "a historic victory, the Tamil people have ... sent a clear message" that they want broad autonomy, TamilNet said.

The rebels fought for 19 years for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils. Nearly 65,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The Tigers signed a cease-fire in February 2002, but peace talks have been on hold for the last year.

The rebels made no direct reference to Kumaratunga, who has refused to give them the degree of autonomy they want, or to the resumption of peace talks.

The United States has urged Sri Lanka to quickly resume the talks.

"We look forward working with the new government," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement released before the final results were announced.

"We hope that the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam will return to the negotiating table as quickly as possible to forge a lasting peace."

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