Apart from appealing for aid, Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on Wednesday issued a rare statement of condolence to the southern Sinhalese, the majority community he has waged war against for two decades at a cost of over 64,000 lives.

"My condolences ... go out to our Muslim and Sinhala brethren in the southern coastal areas, who have lost their kith and kin, and [are] in deep sorrow," Prabhakaran said in a statement posted on the LTTE's website.

The tsunami killed more than 22,000 Sri Lankans. President Chandrika Kumaratunga has described the disaster as unprecedented in the country's history.

Significant departure

Prabhakaran's statement was a far cry from his threat last month to resume the rebels' bloody freedom struggle, on hold after a three-year ceasefire.

Tamil Tiger rebels are now
focussing on rescue and relief

In the weeks leading up to Sunday's tsunami, tensions between the two sides reached fever pitch, stoking fears of a slide back to full-blown war.

Killings and sporadic violence across the ethnic divide were becoming a daily routine. Battling the tsunami aftermath has given both sides a common enemy and there have been no reports of violence since Sunday.

Donor nations have grown increasingly impatient with the rebel Tigers and the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government in recent months for their inability to forge lasting peace.

Seeking a separate homeland for the minority Tamils, the LTTE is pressing for interim self-rule. But the government insists the rebels must agree to lasting peace first.