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German leader dismisses talk of early retirement

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FRANK JORDANS | August 18, 2013 12:47 PM EST | AP

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday dismissed suggestions that she might step down before completing a third term if her party is victorious in next month's general election, and insisted that she wants to continue the center-right coalition she has led since 2009.

German media have speculated that the country's first female chancellor, who is highly popular with voters, might retire before the end of a third term to pave the way for a successor from within her party.

"I want to be chancellor for four years," Merkel said in an interview with public TV broadcaster ZDF five weeks before the vote. She even left open the possibility of standing again in 2017.

Merkel, 59, also played down talk of reviving the grand coalition from her first term, when her conservative party ruled the country together with the Social Democrats from 2005 to 2009.

Surveys put her Christian Democrats far ahead of their leftist rivals in the run-up to the Sept. 22 ballot.

But Merkel's junior coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, have fared poorly in opinion polls and could complicate her re-election if they win less than the 5 percent share of the vote needed to enter Parliament.

If they fail to pass that threshold, Merkel could be forced to work with the Social Democrats, who are led by her first term finance minister, Peer Steinbrueck.

"Nobody wants this," said Merkel, but added that, in her view, "the election will be very, very close."