A college newspaper has set off a wave of speculation that David Petraeus, the general-turned-CIA-spy-chief, might want to leave his job to become president -- of Princeton University.

Petraeus, 59, has long been suspected of harboring political ambitions but he has sometimes fended off questions about a possible White House run by joking that he aspires to be president of Princeton University, where he earned graduate degrees.

However, a long article in the university's student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, published Thursday suggested the cerebral former general may be serious about leaving the country's most powerful intelligence service to lead the Ivy League school.

Asked about the speculation, Petraeus issued a statement that left open questions about his future.

"I think I've made my respect and admiration for the great faculty and student body of Princeton University very clear, and I will reiterate that now.

"As it currently stands, however, I am living the dream here at CIA," his statement said.

The job at Princeton will soon be open as the current president, Shirley Tilghman, has announced she will be stepping down at the end of this academic year.

The university newspaper quoted friends and colleagues of Petraeus, the former four-star general who commanded American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, as saying the CIA director would be interested in the Princeton post.

But Petraeus -- the most prominent military figure of his generation -- took over the CIA only a year ago, and analysts say the timing is not right.

The White House would be anxious for him to stay at the CIA, while his admirers say it's unlikely the retired commander would leave the spy agency before having more time to leave his mark.

"I think he is really enjoying the CIA and not interested in leaving soon -- but that's just my impression," Michael O'Hanlon, a friend of Petraeus and a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, told AFP.