ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, SEPT. 4 -- In a shiny exhibition hall here, the Emirates is putting on a bake sale to support Kuwaiti refugees living in five-star hotels up and down the Persian Gulf. The U.A.E.'s first lady kicked off the fund-raiser by paying $3 million for a tin of Kuwaiti cookies.

"She passed {a booth} and asked for one dish," recalled Fatema Rashid, a Kuwaiti exile helping to organize the fund-raiser. When the first lady produced the millions, "she was blessed in tears."

The money will be used to help the 35,000 Kuwaiti exiles in the U.A.E., some of whom lost large oil and commercial fortunes when Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. But these days, questions are being raised along the gulf about whether the relatively wealthy Kuwaiti refugees really need so much assistance -- and whether the exiles' sometimes extravagant lifestyles will undermine support in the West for the Kuwaiti cause.

Visiting senators and congressmen have expressed concern that unless Kuwaiti exiles begin organizing more visibly to fight for their occupied homeland, a U.S. perception may grow that American soldiers are risking their lives in the desert while wealthy Kuwaiti refugees dine on free food in the gulf's luxury hotels, diplomats here said.

"That is going to be one of the continuing issues," said a Western diplomat. "How do you turn all that idle capability {among Kuwaiti refugees} into productive enterprise? That's the challenge . . . to not just allow it to become refugees sitting in hotels."

Walking with a visitor down aisles of food, handicrafts, and consumer goods -- including a new Pontiac and a power boat -- donated by embassies and U.A.E. businessmen to raise money for Kuwaitis, Rashid said it was only a matter of time before Kuwaiti fighters stepped to the fore of the multinational effort to expel Iraq from her homeland.

"I would say {Kuwaiti fighters} will return as soon as possible," said Rashid, formerly an official in the Kuwait education ministry. When the invasion "happened, most of us were on vacation. Also, most of our men are not trained to use the guns."

While some Kuwaitis trapped by Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion have organized an armed resistance inside Kuwait City to harass Iraqi troops, many others who fled or already were out of the country have taken up a relatively comfortable exile in oil-rich gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The Kuwaitis have been welcomed by leaders of the gulf sheikdoms with free hotel rooms, food, luxury cars, pocket money, medical care and unrestricted access to schools.

Even without such largesse, the Kuwaitis are perhaps the wealthiest war refugee community in recent history. With a small native population and proven oil reserves worth $2.4 trillion at today's prices, Kuwaitis enjoyed one of the world's highest per capita incomes before the Iraqi invasion.

So far, Kuwaiti refugees have concentrated on organizing an exile government and have mustered financial and diplomatic support for the U.S.-led effort to defend Saudi Arabia with troops and warships and to isolate Iraq economically. Some exiled Kuwaitis have called for the United States to invade Kuwait and expel Iraqi forces.

The exiled Kuwaiti government has set up in a royal palace in Taif, Saudi Arabia. Senior officials shuttling between meetings ride in curtained Mercedes-Benzes supplied by the host governments.

Many Kuwaitis have lost their life savings because of the Iraqi invasion, and a large number have family members trapped inside their occupied homeland, causing emotional hardships. Hundreds of Kuwaitis are thought to have died during the invasion and few here doubt that Kuwaitis have suffered.

But they are being compared with tens of thousands of poor Arab and Asian workers from Iraq and Kuwait languishing in brutal conditions at border posts near Jordan and Iran.