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Putin, Promoting an Ally, Fuels Speculation Over Successor

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday added intrigue to the unsettled but widely debated question of who might succeed him as Russia's leader in 2008 when he promoted his minister of defense in an unexpected Cabinet tinkering.

Sergei B. Ivanov, a former KGB officer who became the first civilian to head the country's military in 2001, will now serve as a first deputy prime minister, giving him expanded duties. He will have the same rank in government and title as another closely watched contender, Dmitri A. Medvedev.

The two men, who are friends and close aides from Putin's hometown, St. Petersburg, have emerged as the leading candidates to replace Putin when he completes a second and — by law — final term following presidential elections scheduled for March 2008.

The move, which went largely unexplained like most of Putin's actions, is certain to intensify speculation over which of the two might have the upper hand for Putin's endorsement. That would be a virtual guarantee of election, given his popularity and the centralized control of politics here.

U.N. Chief Presses Sudan To Let Team Visit Darfur

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan had broken a personal pledge he made last month to give entry permits to a U.N. human rights team, and Ban urged the Sudanese leader to reconsider.

"This is the issue I discussed with President Bashir during my meeting with him in Addis Ababa, and he said he would issue visas to the fact-finding mission," Ban said. "He said he would have no problem."

"I am very much disappointed by the decision of the Sudanese government," he added. "If he believes that there is no problem, then he should be able to receive the human rights fact-finding mission."

Ban also said he had received no reply from Bashir to a Jan. 24 letter addressing Sudanese concerns over a combined African Union and U.N. force to curb attacks on villagers in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

Police Told to Stop Taping Public Events Without Cause

In a rebuke of a surveillance practice greatly expanded by the New York Police Department after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the police must stop the routine videotaping of people at public gatherings unless there was an indication that unlawful activity may occur.

Four years ago, at the request of the city, the same judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., had given the police greater authority to investigate political, social and religious groups.

In Thursday's ruling, Haight, of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, found that by videotaping people who were exercising their right to free speech and breaking no laws, the Police Department had ignored the milder limits he had imposed on it in 2003.

Citing two events in 2005 — a march in Harlem and a demonstration by homeless people in front of the home of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — the judge said the city had offered scant justification for videotaping the people involved.