The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said the winning by their proxies - the Tamil National Alliance - of 22 seats, making them the third largest force in the new parliament, was an endorsement of the rebel struggle.

"A clear message has been effectively delivered by the Tamil people, in that the concept of the Tamil homeland, Tamil nationalism and the right of Tamil self-rule should be accepted as the basic aspirations of the Tamil people," the LTTE said in a statement.

The Tamil National Alliance's performance in the polls showed that "the Tamil national problem should be politically resolved on that basis, failing which the Tamil people will fight to establish Tamil sovereignty in their homeland on the principle of self determination," it added.
 
It said the Tigers had won recognition as the "sole representatives" of minority Tamils after the 2 April vote which returned a hung parliament where President Chandrika Kumaratunga was set to form a government.

"The Tamil people have elevated the Tamil national struggle to a noble pedestal so that none could vilify or ignore it," the LTTE said. "We consider this a major political victory for our freedom struggle."

The LTTE statement posted on the outfit's website made no mention of resuming peace talks with a new government that must prove its majority at the first session of the next parliament on 22 April. 

Separate homeland
  

"A clear message has been effectively delivered by the Tamil people, in that the concept of the Tamil homeland, Tamil nationalism and the right of Tamil self-rule should be accepted as the basic aspirations of the Tamil people"
 

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam statement

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.

Sri Lanka president, Chandrika Kumaratunga's  party won 105 seats in the 225-member parliament to emerge the largest single group, giving it the first shot at forming a government.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) came second on Sunday with 82 seats while the third place went to proxies of Tamil Tiger guerrillas, who secured 22 seats.

No party crossed the magic number of 113 needed to enjoy an absolute majority in the 225-member legislature, pointing to either a minority government or a shaky coalition.