By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service DOHA, Qatar -- The Cooperative Defense Initiative was one subject of discussion when Defense Secretary William S. Cohen met Oct. 19 with Qatari leaders. At a news conference following the meeting with Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Cohen called Qatar a "key element" in promoting regional peace and stability. Only about 50 American service members are based in the country, but Qatar is the site of a brigade's worth of U.S. military equipment. Under the March 1999 initiative, the United States and its gulf allies would work together to build and operate defenses against foes who would use weapons of mass destruction. Cohen said he is working with all the gulf states and Saudi Arabia on the initiative and all are showing varying degrees of progress. The kind of cooperation Cohen is pursuing is to have an early warning system so the allies can share information in the event of a missile strike. He proposed active defense, a theater missile defense, and passive defenses such as protective gear and gas masks. Cohen also proposed sharing information on consequence management. This refers to what would happen after a strike. The United States, he said, has a vigorous ongoing program to help about 150 cities anticipate and prepare what they would need to do should they be victims of a chemical or biological attack. He said the United States can help train first responders, such as the police or fire fighters who would be among the first public officials on a disaster scene. The training prepares them to detect and classify the threat and provides them the expertise they need to respond correctly. Cohen cited America's recently created Joint Task Force- Civil Support as an example of the type of planning expertise the gulf states will need. The task force is part of U.S. Joint Forces Command and plans the types of intelligence, logistics and transportation support civilian authorities would need in the event of a strike. "We can help the gulf states face the threat of weapons of mass destruction," Cohen said. Such cooperation could lead to other efforts, he added. "We're also discussing the prospect of combined military planning. We can, together, improve interoperability between our forces that will ultimately strengthen regional deterrence."