Vice President Dick Cheney (search) said Saturday the Bush administration is working hard to protect the nation from the gravest threat facing it — the possibility that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists.

Cheney told a fund-raising dinner for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search), R-Ill., that Al Qaeda (search) terrorists are bent on destroying the United States and must be met with force.

"This is not an enemy we can reason with, negotiate with or appease," Cheney said. "This is an enemy that, put simply, we must destroy and that is exactly what we'll do with George W. Bush (search) as president."

The comments came during a speech delivered to hundreds of Republicans packed into the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center for a $150-a-plate dinner.

The vice president told the crowd, "the biggest danger we face today is to have nuclear weapons fall into the hands of terrorists." But he said the administration is working to control the trade and transfer of nuclear materials throughout the world.

Cheney has made similar comments during speeches in recent weeks at Republican campaign events across the country.