Gen. Bantz Craddock, the chief of U.S. Southern Command who oversees the controversial Guantanamo prison, is to succeed Gen. James Jones as NATO’s top commander of operations, the alliance said on Friday.

Craddock will replace Jones as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) at a date yet to be determined, NATO said in a statement released in Brussels after President George W. Bush proposed Craddock for the post.

“The NATO Defense Planning Committee, which takes this decision, agreed but also expressed to General Jones, in the name of NATO governments, their gratitude for his distinguished service,” it said.

Jones, a U.S. Marine, became SACEUR based in Mons, southern Belgium, in 2003 and had been widely expected to end his tour by the end of the year.

As head of Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, Craddock is responsible for overseeing operations at the detention facility for foreign terror suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

European officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over the treatment of prisoners at the camp, which Bush said last month he wanted eventually to shut, sending inmates back to their home countries.

© 2006 Reuters