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Obama takes women's issues from campaign trail to international stage

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Saturday May 19, 2012: French President Francois Hollande, left, listens as President Obama speaks at G8 Summit at Camp David, Md.

President Obama brought women's issues – a major topic in the 2012 presidential campaign -- into world politics Saturday, when he said world leaders at the G-8 summit assembled to discuss Afghanistan, the European debt crisis and other international issues, but also talked about "female empowerment."

"Empowering women to have a seat at the table" during discussions on economics and peace "can be extraordinarily fruitful," 

"We had a brief discussion around the issue of women's empowerment, where we agreed that both, when it comes to economic development and when it comes to peace and security issues, empowering women to have a seat at the table and get more engaged and more involved in these processes can be extraordinarily fruitful," Obama said at the Camp David presidential retreat, located about 90 minutes from the White House, in western Maryland.

Democrats have during the 2012 elections accused presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans of not understanding women voter's needs.

The issue hit a flash point in April when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, was unqualified to talk on the campaign trail to women voters about their concerns because “she never worked a day in her life.”

Rosen apologized to Romney who raised the couple's five boys and does volunteer work.

Mitt Romney has continued to argue that women's issue, including those of stay-at-home mothers, are economic issues, including the high cost of gas to get their children to school or soccer practice.

The Obama administration has continually made women's empowerment part of its foreign policy. But this appears to be one of the first times the president has made the issue prominent on the international stage since the Rosen flap. Obama also said Saturday the issue would be revisited at the G20 Summit.

The president also talked about Iran, Syria, North Korea and Burma and said the group will next talk about global concerns for energy markets and economic development in Afghanistan.

On Iran, Obama said the leaders are unified and respect Iran's right to have peaceful power but they have to prove it is peaceful. The president said they will continue with the dual-track approach of sanctions and diplomatic dialogue.

On Syria, he said the leaders are supportive of UN envoy Kofi Annan's plan, but that the political process must move forward in a more timely way.