WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States announced an end to its 20-year-old trade embargo against Sudan on Friday (Saturday in Manila), citing what it said are improvements in Khartoum’s human rights record. Washington did not drop Sudan from its blacklist of state terror sponsors nor end its support for the international war crimes indictment targeting President Omar al-Bashir. But the decision was nonetheless a breakthrough for Bashir’s regime, which has engaged with Washington in a bid to end the international isolation that it has suffered since the bloody crisis in Darfur that broke out in 2003. Some human rights advocates denounced the move, the fruit of an intense 16-month diplomatic initiative that began under former US president Barack Obama, but other observers cautiously hailed it as a small step forward for the region. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson published a report confirming the decision, and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the order would come into effect on October 12.