BONN, AUG. 16 -- West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said tonight that his country is ready to break away from postwar military restrictions and reclaim an international military role by joining a United Nations force in the Persian Gulf area.

Although the West German constitution appears to forbid the deployment of German troops outside countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Kohl said in a television interview that if the United Nations sends a multinational force to the gulf, that would be "a different situation."

"One cannot, as West Germany {does}, have pretensions to international solidarity, and then refuse when others demand international solidarity from us," Kohl said.

Referring to the Persian Gulf, he said: "This is a serious situation. And a country like West Germany -- and this is true in an even stronger way for a reunited Germany -- of course carries international responsibility."

The foreign affairs committee of the West German parliament is to meet Monday in a special session to consider changing the constitution to allow German troops to participate in U.N. peace-keeping forces.

Kohl, however, is strongly considering joining a U.N. force even without the constitutional change, according to sources in the Bonn chancellery.

Kohl's advisers said today that the chancellor wants to send a message to his allies and especially to the United States that the reunited Germany, already an economic powerhouse, will not shy away from doing its part in international peace-keeping efforts.

Kohl, according to his speech tonight, also wants to help out in the gulf to thank President Bush for "the solidarity of our American friends" throughout the unification process.

The change in the German attitude has come, like the rest of Germany's reunification, with remarkable speed and equally stunning unanimity.

Four of the country's largest political parties today endorsed a wider role for the military through a constitutional change. The left-wing Greens were the only major party to oppose any expansion of Germany's military range.

Only a year ago, large demonstrations and heated political debate followed any effort to expand military presence or activity in West Germany.

For example, allowing U.S. planes to use American bases on German soil to support an operation elsewhere would have been a divisive question a year ago. Last week, when Kohl gave the United States permission to do just that, there was barely any opposition.

Bonn's constitution was written four years after the defeat of Nazi Germany and was intended to limit the ability of West Germany to rearm itself.

West Germany was permitted to reestablish its military in 1956, and its Bundeswehr is now the largest military force in Europe after the Soviet Union's forces.

Even before Kohl's latest comments, a legal debate had emerged over just how restrictive the constitution really is. The document says that the military may be used only "while a state of defense or a state of tension exists."

Some conservative scholars maintain that the document does not prevent the government from sending troops to the gulf, especially since the Bonn constitution allows the country to join in mutual security pacts.

But other constitutional scholars have said the Bundeswehr may not operate outside NATO territory. Earlier this year, when Bonn wanted to participate in a U.N. peace-keeping force in Namibia, the country sent members of its border police rather than soldiers.

Kohl will meet Monday with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Defense Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg to consider what the German position will be when nine West European nations meet next week to decide whether to send a joint European force to the gulf.

Genscher has opposed sending German forces to the gulf unless a constitutional change is made.