PARIS, SEPT. 17 -- The European Community, escalating its retaliation against Iraq for last week's raids on several European diplomatic compounds in Kuwait, announced today that its 12 member nations were expelling all Iraqi military attaches and limiting the movements of other Iraqi diplomats based in their capitals.

At a meeting of their foreign ministers in Brussels today, the European states also said they would consider extending enforcement of a United Nations embargo against Iraq to cover air traffic. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said it was important to obtain backing from the U.N. Security Council for the expanded boycott to make it effective on a global basis.

In a final communique, the ministers urged Iraq "to realize the suicidal character of its behavior toward the international community."

Since Iraq invaded Kuwait more than six weeks ago, the 12 EC foreign ministers have met once or twice a week to coordinate their responses. Compared to the swift projection of U.S. military power to protect Saudi oil fields only days after the Iraqi assault on Kuwait, European action initially seemed meek and muddled to some U.S. critics. But last week's raids by Iraqi soldiers on the diplomatic missions in Kuwait of France, Belgium and the Netherlands seem to have encouraged greater assertiveness among EC countries.

"This all arises because I feel, the government feels, that we've got to act in solidarity with the French and the other countries whose embassies have been invaded and people taken out during the last few days," Hurd said in Brussels today in announcing the expulsion of eight members of the Iraqi Embassy in London and the deportation of 23 other Iraqi citizens.

The European countries also have pledged $2 billion in economic aid to be sent to such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey that have been badly hurt by the U.N.-sanctioned trade boycott of Iraq. But final agreement on the aid was put off today while France and Britain considered the financial ramifications of last week's announcement that their countries would send thousands of ground troops to Saudi Arabia.

{At the United Nations, the Security Council met Monday to discuss a possible aerial blockade of Iraq, the Associated Press reported.

{Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Abdul Amir Anbari, said Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan of Pakistan, appointed to oversee U.N. aid during the gulf crisis, would not be permitted to visit Iraq and Kuwait. Anbari also rejected the Security Council's call for aid to be delivered to Iraq through non-Iraqi agencies, calling the plan "humiliating."

{Kuwaiti Ambassador Mohammed Abulhassan, in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, said Kuwait was being subjected to an Iraqi "reign of terror . . . so intolerable that the population is being forced out, in order to alter the demographics of Kuwait." Abulhassan said some Kuwaitis arrested for refusing to cooperate with occupation forces are being subjected to "intimidation and physical torture."}

The enthusiasm shown by leading European nations in recent days to supply troops and money to the U.S.-led military buildup in the Persian Gulf may ease what had been mounting criticism from the U.S. Congress, alleging meager allied contributions to the defense of vital European security interests in the gulf region.

But the Europeans' assumption of a greater share of the burden may also curtail the freedom of U.S. commanders in the field. In responding to U.S. appeals to put European forces on the front line, the allies have said they will demand a greater voice in determining the scope and timing of any military action that could put their soldiers at risk.

Some West European leaders have come to view the crisis as an inescapable challenge to their goal of shedding their overwhelming military dependence on the United States and coordinating European defense among themselves as U.S. troops pull out of Europe.

"It all comes down to a matter of sovereignty," said a senior French diplomat. "Whether you are talking about building European unity or coordinating forces in the gulf, somebody has to give up control of their own destiny for the sake of the common good. And in neither case are we sure that enough will be done to achieve our goals."

French President Francois Mitterrand, in announcing Saturday the dispatch of 4,000 ground troops to Saudi Arabia in retaliation for an Iraqi raid on the French ambassador's residence in Kuwait, said the time had come for the 12 European Community countries "to see if they can live up to their capacity to deal with the great problems of the hour."

French officials said Mitterrand wants to use Tuesday's meeting of foreign and defense ministers of the Western European Union (WEU) to coordinate the growing European air and ground forces in the gulf in hopes that the experience might pave the way for a multinational force to defend European interests in the future. The WEU is the principal European forum for defense matters.

European countries that have sent naval vessels to the gulf to enforce the U.N. embargo have been using the WEU to coordinate their operations with U.S.-led forces. Military chiefs of staff from the nine WEU member countries have maintained close contact, and naval cooperation is generally said to have proceeded smoothly despite a proliferation of warships in the area, from numerous countries.

The command of air and ground forces, however, could prove more difficult to harmonize. Despite a weekend meeting to explore means of better coordination between the French and American commanders in the gulf, France has insisted on retaining its independent military command that has kept the country outside NATO's military authority for 25 years. "We want to remain masters of our own decisions," Mitterrand declared on Saturday.

Even Britain, which promised to send 6,000 ground troops last week after an appeal by the Bush administration, contends that its 7th Armored Brigade will operate autonomously in the gulf.