Standing alongside the main Protestant and Catholic leaders, British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday made a final appeal for a solid acceptance of Northern Ireland's peace accord.
"Don't squander the best chance in a generation to build a decent future," Blair urged in an eve-of-referendum television interview.John Taylor, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionists, the party vital in delivering Protestant votes, predicted a 70 percent endorsement - the target set by "yes" campaigners in Friday's referendum.
But Blair's visit also stirred up the opposition. A hard-line Protestant legislator, Robert McCartney, yelled "Blair, you're nothing but a traitor" as the prime minister, on his third visit in three weeks, toured the neighborhood of Holywood on the outskirts of Belfast.
Earlier, at a news conference with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and John Hume - head of the main Catholic party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party - Blair signed a huge poster of five handwritten pledges.
They include promising that anyone who uses or threatens violence will be kept out of a proposed power-sharing assembly.
"Mr. Blair's assurances, handwritten or not, are worthless," retorted the Rev. Ian Paisley, out on the stump for the "no" campaign."
Protestants fear Sinn Fein will sit in the assembly while its still-armed political ally, the Irish Republican Army, keeps the option of returning to violence.
The latest opinion poll, published in Thursday's Irish Times, indicated 60 percent of Northern Ireland voters back the agreement, 25 percent are against and 15 percent aren't sure. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
In separate referendums Friday, voters in this British province and in the Irish Republic will decide whether to support the accord struck April 10 among the British and Irish governments and eight parties. Blair wants as strong a "yes" vote as possible, although only a bare majority is required.
While Northern Ireland's large Catholic minority and the Irish Republic electorate generally support the deal, the Ulster Unionists face major opposition by two harder-line Protestant parties.
Protestant opponents particularly dislike the prospect of Sinn Fein in the assembly and accelerated releases of several hundred IRA prisoners.
After arriving Wednesday evening, Blair took 40 minutes of questions on BBC Belfast television from a Presbyterian minister, a retired Catholic politician and two respected Protestant and Catholic journalists.
Blair suggested that a strong endorsement would put him and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in a good position to wipe out IRA dissidents who have refused to honor the outlawed group's July 1997 truce.
But questions focused on what it would take to bar Sinn Fein from the assembly and keep IRA prisoners behind bars.
"Could you tell me how you read Sinn Fein. . . . Are you of a mind to trust them or not?" asked the Rev. John Dunlop.
"Well I'm not of a mind to trust them blindly," Blair responded, "People can't have it both ways. They either give up violence and embrace democracy, or they don't."