Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has cancelled his trip to Washington to concentrate on critical talks to save powersharing at Stormont.
Mr Brokenshire was due to meet President Donald Trump as part of the annual St Patrick's Day visit.
However he has decided to pull out of the trip to focus on helping Northern Ireland's political parties strike a deal.
If no agreement is reached by March 27 the North is facing another snap election.
A senior UK government source said that Mr Brokenshire had been due to fly to Washington on Wednesday for two days.
However, he has decided that the ongoing talks at Stormont are at a "critical stage" and that is where his focus must be.
"He is just focused on getting the right result and getting an agreement by the 27th. The deadline is looming. He will have no other option by law but to call another election if there is no agreement by then," the source said.
Mr Brokenshire recently met the acting US ambassador to the UK Lew Lukens to discuss the situation at Stormont.
"The Secretary of State is encouraged by how seriously the Americans are taking this. He would love to go to Washington. Washington has always helped Northern Ireland. But now is not the right time and time is short," the source added.
Political parties in the North are due to resume talks again on Monday in a bid to restore the powersharing institutions.