German Chancellor Angela Merkel topped Forbes' annual global ranking of the Most Powerful Women for the seventh time in eight years.

The magazine describes Merkel, 58, as "the backbone of the 27-member European Union," adding she "carries the fate of the euro on her shoulders." The magazine notes her hard-line austerity prescription for easing the European debt crisis has been challenged by both hard-hit southern countries and the more affluent north, most particularly France. She is running for a third term in September.

The top 15

1. Angela Merkel, chancellor, Germany

2. Dilma Rouseff, president, Brazil

3. Melinda Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S.

4. Michelle Obama, first lady, U.S.

5. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former secretary of State, U.S.

6. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, U.S.

7. Christine Lagarde, managing director, International

Monetary Fund, U.S.

8. Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, U.S.

9. Sonia Gandhi, president, Indian National Congress party, India

10. Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo, U.S.

11. Park Geun-hye, president, South Korea

12. Virginia Rometty, CEO IBM, U.S.

13. Oprah Winfrey, media mogul, U.S.

14. Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox, U.S.

15. Meg Whitman, CEO Hewlett-Packard, U.S.

-- Bloomberg News

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