Cairo: Sunni Islam's prestigious seat of learning, Al Azhar, Thursday said it would suspend indefinitely an inter-faith dialogue with the Vatican in protest against what it termed as Pope Benedict XVI's repeated criticism of Islam.

"The decision to suspend the dialogue with the Vatican has been unanimously taken by members of the Islamic Research Centre at an emergency meeting," said a statement released by the centre, which is the influential arm of Al Azhar.

The move came a few days after Egypt recalled its ambassador from the Vatican in protest against the Pontiff's call on the governments of the world to take measures to protect Christian minorities, citing attacks against Christians in Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria.

"Pope Benedict's repeated criticism of Islam and his unjustified claim that Copts are persecuted in Egypt and the Middle East were behind the suspension decision," added the statement.

Egypt's Muslim religious leaders slammed as unacceptable the Pope’s remarks in the wake of a bombing outside a church in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria, which left 23 Christians dead and nearly 100 injured.

"I wonder why the Pope didn’t call for protection of Muslims when they were exposed to killings in Iraq?" said Ahmad Al Tayeb, the Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar earlier this month.