The head of Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council has called for a provisional government to be installed as soon as possible.
Washington is concerned about growing instability
Jalal Talabani, who holds the rotating presidency, said it was "reasonable and necessary" to have a provisional government before a new constitution.
It comes amid signs that the US might be re-thinking Iraq's political future.
Iraq's US administrator, Paul Bremer, has held talks at the White House after arriving on a hastily-arranged visit.
The BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb says the fact that Mr Bremer travelled to the White House at short notice suggests urgent decisions are being taken.
Officials have denied that the Iraqi council is to be abandoned but they acknowledge that ways might have to be found of speeding up the transfer of power to the Iraqi people.
The Bush administration has been frustrated by growing instability in Iraq and by the performance of the interim Governing Council, analysts say.
"When decisions need to be made, Bremer comes," an unnamed official told Reuters news agency.
Some administration advisers are suggesting that perhaps there should be an abrupt change of plan involving the appointment of an interim Iraqi leader before elections are held - along the lines of the solution adopted in Afghanistan.
In London, UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw told the BBC that power could be handed to the Iraqis "more quickly than planned" - with the Afghanistan model one of the options being looked at.
Bremer (right) flew to Washington to help focus minds
"We want to hand over power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible," he told Radio 4's Today programme.
"Up to now that view has been, you make the agent of that process the Governing Council.
"There have been suggestions not just from the United States and ourselves but from other partners that there may be other ways of achieving that."
Mr Bremer cancelled a planned meeting in Iraq with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller to return at short notice to the White House.
He was joined there by Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other top officials.
The White House did not comment on the purpose of the visit, nor did it say whether Mr Bremer met President George W Bush.
The United Nations has set a 15 December deadline for the 25-member Governing Council to set out a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections.
But the Bush administration is said to be frustrated by the lack of progress.
Every day brings fresh attacks on coalition forces in Iraq
According to media reports, Washington views the council as divided and unable to make decisions.
The administration is said to be considering setting up a new interim government.
The Washington Post quotes a US administration official as saying: "It's beginning to be realised that it's not going to follow that path."
"And we need some kind of provisional government that we can give some kind of authority to. He (Bremer) has got a lot of work to do."
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says the security situation in Iraq was likely to have been high on the agenda during the White House talks.
The number of attacks against troops occupying Iraq has reached 30 a day, the US army commander in Iraq said on Tuesday.