Sri Lankan rebels on Wednesday pressed for autonomy and said that a rejection of their basic demand for a Tamil homeland could seriously undermine the upcoming face-to-face talks with the government.
The Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam took serious exception to remarks attributed to President Mahinda Rajapakse in a media interview that he will not grant a homeland for the island's minority Tamils.
"The President had... totally rejected the Tamil homeland concept and emphasised that a political solution to the racial conflict will be looked into only within the parameters of the unitary constitution," the Tigers said in a statement.
"The Tamil people are shocked over President Rajapakse's rejection of their basic political aspirations," the statement said, adding, "LTTE strongly condemns these sentiments expressed by the President that tend to belittle the political rights of the Tamil people."
However, the government, in a statement said a pro-rebel website had misquoted the President.
The two sides are due to meet in Geneva next week to try to save their truce that had come under renewed pressure following a spike in violence since December.
"President Rajapakse, hastily going to town without knowing correctly the deep contradictions and complexities of the Tamil-Sinhala racial conflict, would seriously impact the current efforts for talks," the Tigers said.