Being your country's envoy to the United States is never an easy assignment. But Jordanian diplomat Marwan Muasher has had particularly good training for the job: before coming to Washington in June 1997, he spent a year as Jordan's first ambassador to former enemy, Israel.
"Most of the time, I stayed at the Dan Hotel [in Tel Aviv] because we had no official residence," said Muasher, who soon after arriving visited his Palestinian mother's former house in the ancient city of Jaffa, now a Tel Aviv suburb. "We had to start from scratch, in every sense of the word. Israelis and Jordanians had different expectations of the job. We were setting precedence in many ways, even though Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel."
The 43-year-old ambassador, who speaks basic Hebrew in addition to English and his native Arabic, said his sojourn Israel was "interesting, tough and challenging" - and excellent preparation for his eventual appointment to the United States.
"Washington is also challenging and tough, but in different ways," said the softly-spoken diplomat. "There isn't the mental stress that was associated with being Jordan's first ambassador to Israel, but Washington is the centre of decision-making in the world, and the process is not controlled by one body alone. Washington is very rewarding in that sense."
Muasher, Jordan's former minister of information, is a computer engineer by profession, with a bachelor's, master's and doctorate in that field from Purdue University. He says his country's relations with the United States have improved dramatically in the nine years since the Gulf War.
"We were against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait from day one, but did not support the introduction of foreign troops to the area," he says. Nevertheless, he adds, "Jordan today enjoys wide and bi-partisan support. Our relations with Congress, the U.S. public and of course the Arab-American community is excellent. Certainly the peace process has had a lot to do with it. We have very good relations with American Jewish organisations, and have started a dialogue with them that has become institutionalised by now."
On the economic front, trade with the United States is still relatively insignificant. Jordan buys $400 million a year worth of US-manufactured automobiles, computers and heavy equipment, but only sells $15 million in exports to the United States - namely handicrafts and Dead Sea salts.
"We have already signed a partnership...