Saudi Arabia has criticised world reaction to its beheading of a Sri Lankan maid convicted of killing her employer's baby, the official Saudi news agency SPA reported.

Riyadh "deplores the statements made... over the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who had plotted and killed an infant by suffocating him to death, one week after she arrived in the kingdom", the government spokesman said.

Rizana Nafeek was beheaded on Wednesday in a case that sparked widespread international condemnation, including from rights groups that said she was just 17 when she was charged with murdering the baby in 2005.

Nafeek was found guilty of smothering the infant after an argument with the child's mother.

The case soured diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka which on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in protest.

The government spokesman condemned what he called "wrong information on the case", and denied that the maid was a minor when she committed the crime.

"As per her passport, she was 21-years-old when she committed the crime," he said, adding that "the kingdom does not allow minors to be brought as workers".

He said authorities had tried hard to convince the baby's family to accept "blood money", but they rejected any amnesty and insisted that the maid be executed.

'Deep dismay'

Saudi Arabia "respects ... all rules and laws and protects the rights of its people and residents, and completely rejects any intervention in its affairs and judicial verdicts, whatever the excuse", the spokesman said.

The UN's human rights body on Friday expressed "deep dismay" at the beheading, and the European Union said it had asked the Saudi authorities to commute the death penalty.

Human Rights Watch said Nafeek had retracted "a confession" that she said was made under duress. She said the baby accidentally choked to death while drinking from a bottle.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic law, or Sharia.

Last year the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom beheaded 76 people, according to an AFP news agency tally based on official figures, while Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.

So far in 2013, three people have been executed.

Source: Agencies