The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday.

"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the U.S. and other nations are prepared to take action. The vice president made no specific reference to military action.

"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

The U.S. and some allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and have demanded it halt uranium enrichment, an important step in the production of atomic weapons. Oil-rich Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity.

At a news conference Wednesday, President George W. Bush suggested that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, it could lead to a new world war.

"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

Bush's spokeswoman later said the president was not making any war plans but rather "a rhetorical point."