Three Americans held hostage in Lebanon during the 1980s must be paid $65 million in damages by the Iranian government, a U.S. judge ruled. He urged Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to help them collect the money.

"These plaintiffs have suffered greatly and are most deserving of compensation," U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said in a letter to Albright on Thursday.Jackson ordered the Iranian government to pay the damages to former hostages Joseph Cicippio, Frank Reed and David Jacobsen and the wives of Cicippio and Reed.

They sued under a 1996 law that lets American victims of terrorism in foreign countries sue in U.S. courts if those nations are listed by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism. Iran has been listed as a terrorism sponsor since 1984.

Jackson's ruling said Iran "openly provided material support or resources" to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization whose members imprisoned and tortured the three men.

The judge awarded $20 million to Cicippio, who was held the longest; $16 million to Reed and $9 million to Jacobsen. He awarded $10 million each to Elham Cicippio and Fifi Delati-Reed.

"Everybody was anticipating more, not so much for us but as an effect on the Iranian government," Cicippio said Friday. He said expert witnesses at the July trial agreed "this is the only way you can effectively put some pressure on them."

He said he had not heard Reed tell his story until the trial. "That tore me apart," said Cicippio, now a financial manager for the State Department's Agency for International Development in Washington.

Jackson's letter to Albright said he hoped the former hostages would get priority over commercial claims in any negotiated settlement with Iran and that the gov-ern-ment would not unnecessarily impede their own efforts to collect the money.

"We think there are various avenues of collecting," said James J. Oliver, the lawyer for the three men. They include frozen Iranian assets in the United States and a judgment an international court may order the United States to pay Iran over a 1970s arms deal made before the shah was ousted.

Cicippio was comptroller of the American University of Beirut when he was kidnapped in September 1986. Over the next five years and three months, he said, he was beaten and subjected to Russian roulette and suffered frostbite when he was chained to an outdoor balcony throughout one winter. He lost over 60 pounds.

Reed, who operated two private schools in Beirut, was taken hostage in September 1986 and held over 31/2 years. During the entire time, he was shackled in a stooped position and was never allowed to stand. He was regularly beaten, electric shocks were given to his hands and his food was laced with arsenic.

Reed has been declared permanently disabled and unable to work because of severe depression and foot injuries.

Jacobsen was chief executive officer of the American University of Beirut Medical Center when he was taken hostage in May 1985. He was held for almost a year and a half and was repeatedly beaten and threatened with death.