Secretary of State James A. Baker III is asking Western European countries to help offset Israel's defense costs as the Bush administration considers a boost in U.S. aid.

State Department spokeswoman Margaret D. Tutwiler said Tuesday that Baker is soliciting money from the 12 members of the European Community and other nations, but she gave no amount.The United States is believed to be considering a boost in economic aid of $700 million to $1 billion, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last month, Israeli Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai estimated that over five years Israel would need about $3 billion to offset defense costs caused by the Persian Gulf war and $10 billion mostly to resettle Soviet Jews.

Israel already receives $3 billion a year in U.S. economic and military aid, the largest recipient of such assistance.

Classifying Israel as a front-line state puts it in the same category as Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, all of which have received billions of dollars from a coalition of countries organized by Baker to compensate for losses related to the gulf war.