Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday, Cheney sought to make amends for his country's notoriety as a bully by urging collective action.

The Vice-President however reiterated Washington's readiness to use force if necessary.

"Civilised people must do everything in their power to defeat terrorism and to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction," he told a packed session of the Forum.

"Cooperation among our governments and effective international institutions are even more important today than they have been in the past," Cheney said.

Bridging gaps

Cheney was clearly attempting to bridge the diplomatic wedge dividing the world in the aftermath of the US-led war on Iraq.

He appeared to focus particularly on European countries, such as France and Germany, which opposed the war.

"Europeans know that their great experiment in building peace, unity and prosperity cannot survive as a privileged enclave surrounded on its outskirts by breeding grounds of hatred and fanaticism," Cheney said.

"World must confront the ideologies of violence at the source by promoting democracy throughout the greater Middle East and beyond"

Dick Cheney
US Vice President

The vice president insisted the "world must confront the ideologies of violence at the source by promoting democracy throughout the greater Middle East and beyond" and should work together to head off attacks.

Plan B

But if diplomacy fails, the world must be "ready as a last resort to apply military force," he said, adding the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein showed the need for "the violent restraint of violent men."

But Cheney's call for collective action was seen by many as a grudging admission that Washington's unilateral policies were failing the country.

A Democratic US congressman Sander Levin said the remarks reflected US acknowledgement that "unilateralism wasn’t working and was producing only problems in Iraq and criticism from around the world."