Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Saturday that the British Council, the cultural arm of the British government, suspended work in Iran because of "economic problems." Elham told reporters that the council has no permit to operate yet Iran did not ban it, rather it was the British themselves who shut the place down. The British Council said in a statement Thursday that it had halted operations after "cases of intimidation" against the local staff in Iran. It said all 16 of its local staff had been summoned to a meeting at the Iranian president's office in December and told to resign. Elham defended the summons, saying the Iranian government has authority to decide about its own nationals.