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Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has halved the jail terms of prisoners who jeered U.N. inspectors searching their jail on suspicion it was part of Iraq's nuclear program, an official newspaper said.

The daily al-Qadissiyah said Saddam made the gesture in appreciation of their "national attitude and love of their country."Saddam also sent them a message of congratulations, praising what he said was their "deep belief in Iraq's just cause."

U.N. inspectors searched the jail in the city of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, in February in the mistaken belief that it might be connected with an Iraqi program to produce nuclear weapons.

The United Nations said later heavy security at the building had aroused inspectors' suspicions.

The official Iraqi News Agency said the prisoners shouted slogans hailing Saddam and attacking President Bush.