A U.S. federal judge on Saturday ordered Vice-President Dick Cheney to preserve a wide range of records from his time in office.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is a setback for the Bush administration, which has been pushing for a narrow definition of materials that must be safeguarded under the Presidential Records Act.

A private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is suing Cheney and the Executive Office of the President in an effort to ensure that no presidential records are destroyed or handled in a way that makes them unavailable to the public.

The judge said the administration's legal position "heightens the court's concern" that some records may not be preserved.

In a 22-page opinion, Kollar-Kotelly revealed that in recent days lawyers for the administration balked at a proposed agreement between the two sides on how to proceed with the case.

She said the administration wanted any court order on what records are at issue in the case to cover only the office of the vice-president, not Cheney himself or the other defendants in the lawsuit: the Executive Office of the President and the National Archives.

The lawsuit stems from Cheney's assertion, first made in 2003, that his office is not an entity within the executive branch of government.

The suit alleges that the administration's actions over the past 7½ years raise questions over whether the White House will turn over records created by Cheney and his staff to the National Archives when the newly elected administration takes over in January.

The U.S. presidential election is scheduled to take place Nov. 4.

With files from the Associated Press