U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking prior to the summit in the Azores, said time is running out for Iraq to disarm or face possible military action. Their comments underscored the call by President George W. Bush and the leaders of Britain and Spain for the international community to support an ultimatum for the immediate disarmament of Iraq.

Speaking on the NBC television program Meet the Press, Vice-President Cheney signaled that the U.S. administration is running out of patience.

"There's no question that we're close to the end, if you will, of the diplomatic efforts," he said. "We've done virtually everything we can with respect to trying to organize a second resolution in the U.N. Security Council."

Speaking on the ABC program This Week, Secretary of State Powell dismissed a French proposal to give Saddam Hussein a 30-day deadline to fully disarm.

"We have had timelines; we have had deadlines; we have had benchmarks. The problem is, Iraq is not complying," he said. "Iraq is playing the United Nations and playing some of the friends who have permanent membership in the Security Council like a fiddle."

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Aldouri, insisted in an interview on CNN's Late Edition that Iraq is cooperating with United Nations weapons inspectors, including providing requested reports on stocks of anthrax and VX nerve agent, which it says it has destroyed.

"We need some time to prove to the international community, to give evidence to the international community, that there is no more any kind, any quantity of anthrax and VX," he said.

Secretary Powell said any Iraqi cooperation has been because of the military buildup in the Gulf in preparation for a possible war.

"Let there be no doubt, if it wasn't for the threat of military force, if those military forces were not assembled in the Gulf right now, you would be seeing no cooperation from Iraq. You would see the same kind of games they've been playing for the last 12 years," he said.

Speaking earlier on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Powell said there is one way war with Iraq could be averted.

"If Saddam Hussein, his sons and a number of top leaders were to leave, and a more responsible leadership were to come in ... then a war certainly could be averted," he said.

But Mr. Powell said he doubted Saddam Hussein would be willing to leave Iraq.