But the separatist group added it would stick to a February 2002 ceasefire with the government.

"Our liberation organisation will rigidly observe the ceasefire regulations and maintain peace," chief negotiator Anton Balasingham was quoted as saying on the TamilNet website on Monday.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga dissolved parliament on Sunday and set an election for 2 April, further delaying efforts to restart peace talks that have been on hold for 10 months.

Kumaratunga, who takes a harder line with the Tigers than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the election to try to break a stalemate between the two over how to handle the peace bid.

Prime minister (L) and president
are bitter political foes 

Civil war

"The irrational lack of consensus among the Sinhala ruling elites on the resolution of the ethnic conflict has plunged the entire country into serious political instability," Balasingham, who is based in London, said.

The Tigers are fighting for a separate homeland in the north and east regions of the island for minority Tamils, saying they are discriminated against by the Sinhalese majority.

The rebels have said they will negotiate with any leader who wins a mandate.

But they have made no secret of their dislike for Kumaratunga, who they tried to kill in a 1999 bomb attack.

The Norwegian-brokered ceasefire has given Sri Lanka its longest lull in fighting since the start of the war in 1983.

About 64,000 people have been killed since then in a brutal conflict that has devastated the resource-rich island.