The United States is prepared to provide up to $500 million in short-term assistance to feed, house, protect and train the people of Kosovo as they begin the task of developing their own government and institutions, senior Clinton administration officials said yesterday.

U.S. representatives will make the offer at a conference of some 50 donor countries in Brussels on Wednesday. The goal of the conference is to agree on short-term aid to ensure that Kosovo's population is ready for the onset of winter.

A second conference, in October, will discuss longer-term needs, including reconstruction. World Bank officials estimated yesterday that the cost of repairing physical damage in Kosovo could be $1.5 billion or less -- about half of some previous estimates.

White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger and other senior U.S. officials depicted this week's meeting in Brussels as the first step in an effort to bring peace and stability not just to Kosovo but to the entire Balkan region and the rest of southeastern Europe.

On Friday, President Clinton will meet in Sarajevo, Bosnia, with leaders of about 35 other nations to forge what Berger called "the Balkans Stability Pact, a framework for promoting democracy, prosperity and security across the region."

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and other administration officials have long contended that the volatility of the Balkans threatens the stability of the entire continent, and thus the United States.

At the Sarajevo meeting, to be attended by all the states of the region except Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, "We and our allies will undertake to help with reforms, speed their integration into the world trading system and encourage our private sectors to play a strong role in their development," Berger said at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations.

European countries will provide most of the resources for this ambitious undertaking, Berger added, "but our participation is very much needed."

The $500 million for Kosovo has already been appropriated by Congress. James Dobbins, the administration's special adviser for implementation of the Bosnia and Kosovo peace agreements, said yesterday the exact amount the United States provides will depend on how much other countries offer.

The funds will be used for food and temporary shelter, land mine removal, sanitation, water supply and the prosecution of war crimes suspects, Dobbins said at a State Department briefing. In addition, the United States and several allied countries have agreed to deploy a 3,100-member international police force to keep order and to recruit and train a local force of 3,000 Kosovo residents who will eventually assume responsibility for law enforcement.

Most of the members will be ethnic Albanians, Dobbins and other officials said, but Serb residents of Kosovo will also be recruited. If enough Serbs remain in Kosovo, the police force will be assigned on a "community policing" basis, with each ethnic group keeping watch over its own people, officials said.

Berger condemned the recent murder of 14 Serbian farmers in Kosovo, which has accelerated the flight of frightened Serbs from the province. "This act of violence is not the same as the massive, systematic campaign that was unleashed by Milosevic" against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, Berger said, "but it is profoundly wrong and unacceptable."