The Equal Employment Opportunity Comission yesterday sued the Associated Press, accusing the nation's largest news service of discriminating against women, blacks and Hispanics.

The civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks a court order requiring AP to change its employment practices and to award back pay to workers who were victims of discrimination.

The government lawsuit is the second legal action charging AP with bias. Last September, the Wire Service Guild, the union representing the majority of AP employes, sued on similar grounds.

In responses to yesterday's new charges, the AP reissued the statement it made in September in response to the union case. Keith Fuller, AP president and general manager, said "the allegations are five years old and no more represent the personnel policies of the AP today than they did when they were made. We believe now, as then, that we operate fairly and evenhandedly with all employes."

The complaint filed yesterday by the EEOC charged that the AP "failed to recruit and hire females as reporters and editors on the same basis as it recruits and hires males."

The suit alleges that AP "limits the hiring of qualified blacks to 'minority trainees' positions while whites are hired for regular and probationary positions."

It also said the news agency did not hire blacks as reporters and editors and discriminates on the basis of national origin by not hiring Hispanics for news jobs.

Contending the AP "assigns females to less prestigious divisions," the EEOC complaint says women are seldom promoted to higher level assignments, such as bureau chief, news editor, and foreign correspondent.

To remedy alleged past discrimination, the federal anti-bias agency seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the AP from "engaging in employment practices which discriminated because of sex, race or national origin."

The EEOC also seeks to force AP to begin an affirmative action program and to prevent the news service from taking punative action against employes involved in bias cases.

An official of The Newspaper Guild said the EEOC determined last April there was "reasonable cause" to believe AP was guilty of discrimination.

She said eight present and former AP employes, with their union's backing, sued AP last fall after attempts to settle discrimination charges collapsed.