Northern Ireland's major pro-British Protestant leader Thursday called opponents of the peace accord cowards.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said the agreement being considered in a May 22 referendum was "a beginning that we're not afraid to embark upon.""I want to see an end to political cowardice in this country," Trimble said in reference to two hard-line Protestant parties trying to wreck the accord reached April 10.
"The Ulster Unionist Party is not running away," he said. "It's not saying `no' with no alternative."
In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair met for more than an hour with leaders of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant fraternal group, the Orange Order, which wants its more than 50,000 members to vote `no.'
Afterward the order's general secretary, John McCrea, said they had been "very honest with Mr. Blair and have listened carefully to what he had to say."
"However, he has confirmed that the agreement . . . cannot be varied or amended. We are therefore confirmed in our opinion that those matters which we find objectionable cannot be altered."
Separately, Blair's office announced the government would establish a fund for victims of the conflict. Since 1968, more than 3,200 have died in politically motivated violence and 40,000 have been injured.
Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party, signaled his determination to win support Sunday to change a fundamental party policy.
The accord would create a new Northern Ireland Assembly with 108 seats overseen by a 12-member Executive from several parties. Sinn Fein's constitution forbids participating in any Northern Ireland administration.