PARIS, JUNE 19 -- President Francois Mitterrand will ask the United States and the five other major industrial democracies to consider extending financial and technical aid to the Soviet Union at the Group of Seven summit meeting in Houston in July, the French leader disclosed today.

Mitterrand's endorsement of direct Western aid to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's beleaguered government will receive strong support from West Germany at the Houston meeting and will not be opposed by the Bush administration, which is showing new flexibility on providing economic help to the Soviets, according to diplomatic sources.

European officials now believe that the Bush administration has dropped its negative attitude on direct aid to Moscow. Secretary of State James A. Baker III reportedly encouraged the foreign ministers of the European Community in a meeting in Brussels last month to consider offering financial help to Moscow even though Washington is unlikely to join them in doing so because of opposition in Congress.

Mitterrand's proposal, unveiled in an interview with the Paris daily newspaper Le Monde, will focus the Group of Seven meeting on East-West relations and the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe for a second consecutive year. Last July in Paris the group, which was founded to coordinate macro-economic policies, mandated the EC to organize a large financial aid effort for Poland and Hungary.

The French president did not specify the size or composition of the aid packages that he intends to propose to the Houston conference and to the 12-nation EC summit in Dublin June 25-26. Saying that it "is in the interest of everyone that Mikhail Gorbachev succeed," Mitterrand added that he would "ask the upcoming summits in Dublin and Houston to think about the possibility of financial, commercial and technical aid for the Soviet Union."

This aid, if approved, could help smooth the way for German unification and entry of a united Germany into NATO, a high priority for the Bush administration. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has pledged to Gorbachev that the Soviet Union will not suffer financially as a result of unification. Kohl is reported by West German officials to want to use the Houston summit to launch a substantial aid package built around commercial credits for the Soviets.

The undeclared shift in the U.S. position leaves Britain as the only member of the Group of Seven likely to oppose advancing economic help to the Soviet Union now. Japan, Italy and Canada are the other members of the group.

British officials still cling to a position that they shared until recently with Washington by arguing that meaningful progress must be made in converting the Soviet economy to a functioning free-market system before aid is extended.

Only a few months ago the United States successfully argued against allowing the Soviet Union to receive soft loans from the newly founded European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. But the growing pressures at home on Gorbachev and the desire to speed German unification and Soviet withdrawals from German territory appear to have prompted a review of this policy in Washington.

Severe shortages of food and consumer goods in state-owned stores have triggered widespread discontent in the Soviet Union in recent months. According to Western businessmen, the Soviet government has begun selling part of its extensive gold reserves to make long-overdue payments for grain and some other imports. The Soviets have traditionally been very reluctant to take this step.

Elsewhere in the interview with Le Monde, Mitterrand said that France favors updating NATO's military doctrine and structure at a summit to be held in London on July 5 and 6, immediately before the Houston meeting.

"As things stand now in Europe, NATO is necessary and should maintain its cohesion, Mitterrand said. "I favor Europe one day defending its own security. {But} in practice that will not happen very soon." Asked if he feared that public opinion in Germany would eventually take that country out of the Western alliance, Mitterrand replied, "I won't make a prediction . . . but it is likely that a great political battle will unfold in Germany on this point."