ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia's defense minister, Damir Krsticevic, offered to resign on Tuesday after the president said the army was too late in helping firefighters tame a fierce forest fire.

The blaze, which spread over 20 km near the Adriatic city of Split, threatened the city suburbs late on Monday. The fire was largely under control on Tuesday.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Tuesday during a visit to Austria that the army could have turned out faster to help the firefighters.

"The size of the fire was such that every helping hand was needed," she said.


However, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic rejected the minister's resignation, telling a news conference: "The army can be engaged only after it is called to help."

Krsticevic also said the army could not act on its own, but had to wait for a call from fire chiefs.

In the end, around 200 members of the armed forces helped more than 400 firefighters to tackle the blaze.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Alison Williams)

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