COLOMBO - Sri Lanka ratcheted up criticism of the UN rights body on Thursday, accusing it of repeated “vicious and baseless” allegations, as its chief visited the island to probe alleged war crimes.

Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told Navi Pillay that Sri Lanka “resents vicious and baseless positions which are incessantly repeated” against the island, which is emerging from decades of ethnic war.

“There is a perception in the country about the lack of objectivity and fairness in the treatment meted out to Sri Lanka,” the external affairs ministry quoted Peiris as telling Pillay during talks in Colombo.

“The minister added that Sri Lanka accepts constructive and justified criticism but resents vicious and baseless positions which are incessantly repeated.”

Pillay began a week-long visit to Sri Lanka on Sunday after Colombo appeared to drop its public hostility towards her and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which has adopted two US-led resolutions against the island in as many years.

The UN rights chief had publicly called for a war crimes investigation into what the UN calls “credible allegations” that up to 40,000 civilians were killed during the final stages of the island’s separatist war that ended in May 2009. Thousands of people had also disappeared, according to UN and international rights groups.

“The repeated use of baseless and arbitrary figures in respect of disappearances eventually acquire authenticity in the face of the massive propaganda that is being carried out against the government of Sri Lanka,” Peiris said. There was no immediate comment from Pillay’s office, but a UN official in Colombo said she will address a press conference before leaving the island on Saturday.

Pillay is due to hold a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday.

Rajapakse, who returned from a visit to Belarus Wednesday, had also criticised the UNHRC of treating his Indian Ocean nation unfairly.

Earlier Thursday, Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa accused Pillay of holding “secret meetings” with activists during her ongoing fact-finding mission.

“She broke protocol, gave the slip to her security detail and went for secret meetings in Trincomalee (in the island’s northeast) to conspire against the country,” Weerawansa told reporters in Colombo.

“She is already planning a very adverse report.”

Pillay arrived in Sri Lanka last weekend for her first official visit after the government dropped its public hostility to her and promised access to the former war zones during the week-long mission.

Pillay, who has previously been accused by Colombo of overstepping her mandate, has told reporters she was only holding Colombo to human rights standards agreed by all nations.

She travelled to former war zones in the north and the east and met relatives of people who disappeared during and after the government’s crushing of Tamil separatists.

Sri Lanka has resisted foreign pressure for an international investigation into war crimes.