(MENAFN- Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) By Mokhles Khoshnaw IRBIL, Sept 23 (KUNA) -- Arab tribes living along the borders of Iraq's Kurdistan and conflict-areas in Mosul, Kirkuk and the outskirts of Irbil are eager to cast vote in the September 25 referendum on Kurdistan's separation.
Kurdistan's government will hold the controversial referendum despite local, regional and international calls to postpone the process.
Arabs in cities and towns liberated by the Peshmerga army from the control of the so-called Islamic State (IS) expressed great appreciation for the army's efforts, spokesman of Nineveh tribes sheikh Muzahem Al-Howeith told KUNA.
Arab tribes in conflict-areas had previously demanded to join Kurdistan between 2006-2007, holding a series of meetings with the UN's Staffan de Mistura, who was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq then.
In 2015, these tribes filed an official request to President of Iraq's Kurdistan Masoud Barzani to join the region, he added.
Al-Howeith noted that there are about 250,000 to 300,000 Arabs who will take part in the referendum.
He said that the Peshmerga had launched a new division that includes Arab fighters by a special request from the tribes.
Meanwhile, a number of senior tribe figures expressed full support for the upcoming referendum and the Peshmerga.
Tribe leader sheikh Khalaf Al-Abadi said the Peshmerga protects all citizens regardless of their beliefs or origins.
On his part, sheikh Riyadh Ali noted that the Peshmerga was able to protect Kirkuk city against terrorists in the past three years. He also mentioned Kurdistan's receiving of hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis.
On the other hand, there are other Arab tribes and political movements that oppose joining Kurdistan or taking part in the referendum.
Barzani had previously affirmed that his government will not allow anyone to harass Arabs living in conflict-areas.
He also stressed the need for all Iraqis to unite in the face of IS and to cooperate in bringing peace and stability to these areas. (end) sbr.ag
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