Sri Lanka's top political analyst called it a veiled threat to resume the war that has killed 65,000 people and devastated part of this idyllic tropical island.

In a speech delivered from rebel-held north and broadcast over Voice of Tigers radio, Vellupillai Prabhakaran on Saturday called upon the mainly Sinhalese government to resume the peace talks stalled since April 2003 without conditions.

He also demanded that his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) be given greater autonomy in the island's northeast, where most of the 3.2 million Tamils live.

"If the government rejects our urgent appeal, adopts delaying tactics perpetuating the suffering of our people, we have no alternative other than to advance the freedom struggle of our nation," he said.

Political vacuum

The rebel leader asserted that the Tamil people could not continue to live in a political vacuum without an interim solution or a permanent settlement.

LTTE guns have been silent since
a truce signed in February 2002

"The Sinhala nation neither assimilates and integrates our people to live in coexistence nor does it allow our people to secede and lead a separate existence. We cannot continue to live in the darkness of political uncertainty, without freedom, without emancipation, without any prospects for the future," he said.

There was no immediate comment from the government, but a Sri Lankan analyst, Jehan Perera, said the speech contained a "veiled threat to resume hostilities".

"It is a sign of frustration that their proposals have not been discussed for so many months. They are trying to force the government to deal with them rather than keep ignoring them," Perera of the independent thinktank National Peace Council said.

Martyrs Day

Prabhakaran was making his policy speech to mark the Tamil Tigers' Martyrs' Day on 27 November, an annual event to commemorate the deaths of about 18,000 rebel fighters since the insurgency began more than two decades ago.

Peace negotiations to halt the civil war were suspended over differences on power sharing. The Tigers have pushed for wide-ranging autonomy in Sri Lanka's north and northeast, which are dominated by ethnic Tamils.

Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in 1976, and the movement began fighting in 1983 to create a separate state for Sri Lanka's Tamils. Some 65,000 people died in the conflict before a Norway-brokered cease-fire was signed in February 2002.