An outbreak of war in the Persian Gulf would disproportionately hurt minorities, both in the military and at home, activists opposed to the troop buildup charged at a forum last night.

Because of the heavy presence of minorities in the armed services, hostilities would result in a large number of casualties among black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian soldiers, several speakers said.

In addition, war would divert funds from domestic programs that help poor and working-class people, they said, noting that Operation Desert Shield already has cost $15 billion.

About 100 people attended the forum at the Shiloh Baptist Church, Ninth and P streets NW. The event was sponsored by the Washington Area Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East, an umbrella organization that favors withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Greg Moore, a member of the National Rainbow Coalition, noted that the 1990 Civil Rights Act was vetoed by President Bush because, he said, it would institute racial hiring quotas. Moore said about one-third of the armed forces personnel in the gulf are minorities, "but there are no concerns about quotas in the Middle East."

Moore said the number of minorities who volunteer for the military is high not because it is attractive, but because unemployment is high in inner cities and the cost of college is beyond the reach of many working-class people.

Edwin Dorn, a senior staff member at the Brookings Institution, said that in a sustained conflict, 25 to 30 percent of the casualties would be blacks. "It's time we let {elected officials} know we are not willing to let our people sacrifice their blood to protect their oil," he said.

Hilda H.M. Mason, who won re-election as an at-large member of the D.C. Council Tuesday, received one of the warmest welcomes from the crowd.

"You make me think about Stokely Carmichael," she said, referring to the 1960s a black leader who was opposed to the Vietnam war. " 'Hell no, I won't go,' " Mason said.

Roger Newell, one of the organizers of the event, said Bush's announcement yesterday that more troops were being sent to the gulf to give U.S. forces offensive capabilities is an indication that the administration is preparing to initiate war.

"You don't need offensive capabilities unless you're planning to do something," Newell said.

Newell said the coalition against U.S. intervention in the gulf has picketed the White House the last 12 weeks in protest of the military presence, and he urged more people to join the protest.