Condoleezza Rice said it was becoming more obvious that the Iraqi president would not disarm voluntarily and that the U.N. was letting him get away with it.
"Continuing to talk about more time and more time and more time is simply going to relieve pressures on the Iraqis to do what they must do," Rice said in a broadcast interview.
The administration was evaluating all options after being rebuffed Friday at the U.N. Security Council, where members lined up behind France's call for more weapons inspections and against military action.
Rice said during a broadcast interview that the administration may ask the U.N. to take up a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq, although she said action was already sanctioned by a previous resolution.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the same program that the resolution being presented this week would likely call for "definitive progress" in the disarmament of Iraq.
Rice, however, said: "We have not drafted the resolution. We're working it with different parties, with our friends."
The United States, she added, was ready to go to war with or without U.N. support. At the same time, the administration seemed focused on pressuring the U.N. to join. "Putting this off is not an option," Rice said.
France has led a formidable bloc calling for extended inspections and wants to wait on a resolution at least until March 14, when inspectors report back to the 15-member Security Council. Inspectors report on March 1 to the five permanent members of the council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
French President Jacques Chirac outlined his opposition in an interview with Time magazine. He said that "a war of this kind cannot help but give a big lift to terrorism. It would create a large number of little bin Ladens" — a reference to Osama bin Laden.
Meanwhile, the chief U.N. nuclear inspector said Sunday that countries opposed to using force against Iraq could change their minds if Baghdad doesn't show more willingness to reveal evidence of weapons programs.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the U.N. search for banned weapons along with Hans Blix, told The Associated Press that the onus was on Iraq, not the U.N. inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction, to prove that it had nothing to hide.
In her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Rice repeatedly said that Saddam had weeks, not months, to disarm or face a military strike.
But former NATO commander Wesley Clark said in a broadcast interview that the White House should consider allowing inspections to seek out weapons of mass destruction and not follow an "artificial deadline."
"It's unlikely the inspectors will ever find the so-called smoking gun on this. But if it makes our allies more able to go to their publics and justify their support of our operation, then I think that's important," said Clark, who has been mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential contender.
Rice said a confrontation was inevitable with Saddam.
"Sooner or later, we believe sooner, the Security Council is going to have to say that he has not taken that final opportunity to comply, and the Security Council is going to have to act, or the United States will have to act with a coalition of the willing," Rice said in another broadcast interview.
She refused to speculate about the vote possibilities for another Iraq resolution.
Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to United States, said in a television interview that a decision would be made in the next few days on "the tactics and timing of a second resolution — when to do it, what to put into it, even who's going to table it."
U.N. weapons inspectors, meanwhile, paid surprise visits to at least 10 sites on Sunday, including food factories, an air base in the northern city of Mosul and a science college.
Inspectors also visited an army unit in the al-Taji area 25 miles north of Baghdad to tag newly produced Al Samoud missiles, which chief inspector Hans Blix said were tested to ranges exceeding the 94-mile limit set by the U.N. Security Council, as well as three other sites involved in making missiles, spokesman Hiro Ueki said.
Meanwhile, aircraft of the U.S.-British coalition that patrols the southern "no-fly" zone over Iraq attacked five cable communications sites on Sunday. The strikes were in response to Iraqi threats to the aircraft, U.S. Central Command said.
On Saturday, millions of people around the world demonstrated against the threat of war, a global outpouring Baghdad officials celebrated as an Iraqi victory and "the defeat and isolation of America."
"The demonstrations and marches that are sweeping the world are a bright picture that clearly reflects the opposition by the people of the world to America's policies of arrogance and aggression," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said at Sunday's ceremony.
Iraq's tightly controlled newspapers gave prominent coverage to the demonstrations. "The world rises against American aggression and the arrogance of naked force," read one headline. "The world said with one voice: 'No to aggression on Iraq,"' read another.
"These demonstrations expressed in their spirit, meaning and slogans the decisive Iraqi victory and the defeat and isolation of America," the government daily Al-Jumhuriya said in a commentary.
Sunday's ceremony inaugurated a memorial built adjacent to the damaged bomb shelter, a concrete bunker whose roof still bears the missile's entry hole and whose floor is still stained from incinerated bodies.