President Bush yesterday sharply condemned Iraq's raids on Western embassies in Kuwait as violations of international law that heighten tension in the Gulf and said he would support French President Francois Mitterrand in "whatever he decides to do" in retaliation for the storming of the French Embassy.

Administration officials yesterday said they had no clear picture of whether the entries into the embassy compounds of France, Canada and Belgium were a deliberate, coordinated escalation ordered by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or what one official called "problems with the Iraqi ground forces" that were not necessarily coordinated and deliberate.

"I don't think anyone {in the U.S. government} has seen a rational explanation of why those residences, and not our compound, were entered," said one official. "Some of the information points to an effort to stay away from our facilities to not cause a provocation and to some problems there with the Iraqi troops on the ground in Kuwait."

Bush said that the storming of the French embassy compound, where one diplomat was detained and three civilians kidnapped, was of "grave concern" to the United States because it "concerns everybody" with foreign nationals in Kuwait. Bush said he called Mitterrand to consult on the situation and said he would support him in retaliatory actions. White House officials said the two were to discuss the situation today after a special French Cabinet session on the incident. The fate of the three kidnapped civilians is unknown.

A consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, part of a group arranging charter flights for American, Canadian and Irish citizens out of Kuwait, was seized by Iraqi soldiers who broke into the Canadian ambassador's residence, State Department officials said.

The U.S. official was held for two hours with three diplomats from Canada, Australia and Ireland and six Irish nationals before being released after strong protests from Joseph C. Wilson IV, the charge' d'affaires in Baghdad and protests from the ambassadors of the other nations involved, according to Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman.

Officials said Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Mashat, was summoned to the State Department last night to receive another protest and to be warned that the United States considers its embassy compound in Kuwait inviolable under international law that makes diplomatic compounds territory of the diplomatic nation, not of the host country.

White House and State Department officials said the U.S. Embassy compound in Kuwait retains, essentially, the status it has had since Aug. 24, when Iraq ordered the Western embassies shut down on the thesis Kuwait had been annexed by Iraq and was not a separate nation. Electricity and water have been shut off, officials said, but diplomatic staff there can remain for what the government describes as "some time."

Officials said early next week was the soonest the lack of food, water or other necessities would cause the embassy to shut down. Administration officials have said from the outset of Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait that there was no question of preventing an Iraqi military move on the embassy and that if the compound closed down because food and water were gone, the Bush administration anticipates the Iraqis would allow the group living at the embassy to move to Baghdad.

Bush, asked yesterday if he would have to order the U.S. compound in Kuwait shut and its staff removed, said, "I have not made a determination on that." He declined to answer questions on whether he would use military force in Kuwait if Iraqi troops entered the U.S. Embassy or harmed U.S. personnel there.

Bush, in a question-and-answer session with reporters before he left for a weekend at Camp David, would not be drawn into discussions of whether the embassy incidents put the United States closer to military action. "I wouldn't put it closer to a war situation," he said. "I still hope that this matter can be peacefully resolved" by Iraq withdrawing from Kuwait.

But, Bush said, "any of these incidents, all of them add up to clear violations of international law. They do raise tensions."

The president said his statements of outrage and of support for Mitterrand were not saber-rattling. "When I rattle a saber, the man will know it," Bush said of Saddam.

Bush praised Britain for announcing it would send ground combat troops to join the multinational forces in the Persian Gulf and Japan, which announced it would give an additional $3 billion to the U.S. effort to get other nations to contribute to the cost of the gulf action, including compensating nations whose economies are suffering because of the economic embargo on Iraq.

Several members of Congress had grown increasingly vocal in complaining that Japan and Germany, in particular, were not contributing sufficiently.