Burma's ruling generals need to prepare for a transition of power involving opposition activists and international mediators, the US envoy to the UN says.
Zalmay Khalilzad said the military would still have a role to play
Zalmay Khalilzad called on the military regime to begin talks with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
He was speaking as the UN debated a statement "strongly deploring" the recent crackdown on peaceful protests.
At least 10 people were killed and thousands detained after an uprising led by Buddhist monks last month.
Mr Khalilzad said UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who recently met senior figures during a four-day visit to Burma, should return to the country very soon to assist in talks.
"We believe it's very important... that there be negotiations for a transition and that we need to start preparing ourselves with regard to a transition in Burma," he told reporters.
"It's very important that a serious dialogue on transition begins and that the international community, regional players, play their roles."
There would still be a role for Burma's military, as a national institution, within this transition, he said.
Meanwhile, the US, UK and France have circulated a statement calling for democratisation and the release of political prisoners for the approval of other Security Council members.
Than Shwe has offered conditional talks with Aung San Suu Kyi
The latest draft replaced the word "condemn" with "strongly deplore", and dropped a paragraph demanding a full account of those jailed, missing or killed.
Correspondents say the statement is a watered down version of the original, but it would still be significant if Burma's main ally, China, approved its content.
The Burmese junta has appeared to make concessions towards its opponents in the wake of international condemnation of its repression.
But moves towards talks between senior generals and Ms Suu Kyi have foundered over the generals' insistence that she abandon her "confrontational" attitude.
Correspondents say many Burmese are sceptical of the regime's sincerity, and believe the offer of talks is just a delaying tactic until international pressure fades away.