WASHINGTON - THE United States welcomed as a 'positive' step on Wednesday India's signing of an international convention governing liability in case of nuclear accidents.

The signing ceremony in Vienna is one of the steps required for US firms to enter India's civil nuclear market, and comes just over a week before President Barack Obama's state visit to India.

'We consider the signing earlier today ... to be a positive step,' undersecretary of state for political affairs William Burns said at the White House, adding that US firms and officials were in talks with India on the issue.

'What we are interested in is simply to ensure that there's a level playing field for our companies. The Indian government has assured us that is what it seeks too.'

The International Atomic Energy Agency said New Delhi's ambassador to Austria and to the IAEA, Dinkar Khullar, signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) at a brief ceremony at the UN watchdog's headquarters in Vienna.

The CSC - which dates back to September 1997 - seeks to establish a uniform global legal regime for the compensation of victims in the event of a nuclear accident. India hopes that signing the convention will allay some of the concerns of US companies about New Delhi's own recently-passed nuclear liability law which gives the right to seek damages from plant suppliers if there is an accident.

US welcomes 'positive' step