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French President Jacques Chirac on Monday praised his government's efforts to curb anti-Semitism, but urged continued vigilance against religious prejudice.

Chirac spoke at a Paris ceremony conferring the French Legion of Honor medal on Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a U.S. group that fights racism and anti-Semitism.

"Today, hatred of others is spreading like a poison in the heart of our societies and across our borders," Chirac said. "We must remain vigilant and fight tirelessly against the resurgence of this horrible beast."

Chirac said France had responded to anti-Semitism with tougher laws but insisted "we cannot let our guard down." In 2005, anti-Semitic crimes in France were down 48 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Interior Ministry.