The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with few natural resources, but it has played a pivotal role in the struggle for power in the Middle East.
Jordan’s significance results partly from its strategic location at the crossroads of what Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land.
It is a key ally of the US and, together with Egypt, one of only two Arab nations to have made peace with Israel.
The desert kingdom emerged out of the post-First World War division of the Middle East by Britain and France.
Head of state: King Abdullah II
King Abdullah II, Jordan’s monarch since 1999, has extensive powers: he appoints governments, approves legislation and is able to dissolve parliament.
Over the past few years, he has been facing growing demands for political reform, and following the popular uprising in Tunisia which led to the flight of the president in January 2011, King Abdullah dismissed his government and appointed the first in a series of prime ministers to oversee the introduction of political change.
Prime minister: Abdullah Ensour
Reform-minded Ensour was appointed by King Abdullah in 2012. Previously the country was beset with constant government changes that critics say have hampered decision making.
Shortly after taking up his post, Ensour imposed unpopular cuts in fuel and hikes in electricity that sparked violent protests but were needed as part of the budget tightening required by the IMF.
Mr Ensour has been accused by liberals and Islamist opponents alike of failing to improve governance and or pursuing genuine political reforms.
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The Jordanian media have traditionally been under tight state control.
“Veneration for the monarchy, religion, but also state institutions and the men who head them are all ‘red lines’ that journalists must not cross,” said Reporters Without Borders in its 2011-12 country report.
Jordan Media City – one of the first such ventures in the region – aims to attract media investments and operates as a regional hub for satellite TV broadcasts.
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Some key dates in Jordan’s history:
1946 – The United Nations recognizes Jordan as an independent sovereign kingdom.
1948 – State of Israel created in British-mandate Palestine. Thousands of Palestinians flee Arab-Israeli fighting to West Bank and Jordan.
1950 – Jordan annexes West Bank.
1951 – King Abdullah assassinated by Palestinian gunman angry at his apparent collusion with Israel in the carve-up of Palestine.
1952 – Hussein proclaimed king after his father, Talal, is declared mentally unfit to rule.
1957 – British troops complete their withdrawal from Jordan.
1967 – Israel takes control of Jerusalem and West Bank during Six-Day War, major influx of refugees into Jordan.
1994 – Jordan signs peace treaty with Israel, ending 46-year official state of war.
1999 – King Hussein dies. His eldest son Crown Prince Abdullah succeeds to the throne.
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