BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Angela Merkel plans to step down as chancellor in 2016, a year before the end of a third term, if she is re-elected in a September 22 election, according to an unsourced article in Stern magazine on Wednesday.
In a column titled "Merkel's last three years", a senior editor of the magazine wrote that she aims to give up politics some 25 years after she became a minister in former conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl's cabinet. Merkel is now 59.
"2016 should be the date she stands down, the year before the federal election in 2017," wrote Hans-Ulrich Joerges.
A spokesman for Merkel said the story was "completely unfounded" and referred Reuters to her own previous denial that she only intended to serve part of a third term, should she win.
When top-selling Bild daily reported in April that she might quit in 2015, Merkel responded that she fully intended to serve the whole four-year period.
In that report, Bild said that in 2015 Merkel would mark 10 years in power, making it a suitable point to step down.
But Merkel told Bild: "I want to continue the center-right coalition and work for our country and its people as chancellor for the full legislative period."
In Stern, Joerges wrote he had heard it was a dream of Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, to drive the Pan-American Highway which links North and South America with her husband. Merkel grew up in Communist East Germany.
Polls show Merkel is likely to win a third term but it is unclear whether she will be able to continue her center-right coalition with the Free Democrats or will have to form a "grand coalition" with the main opposition Social Democrats.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown)