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Phasor measurement units (PMUs) are considered as a promising tool for future monitoring, protection and control of power systems. In this paper, a unified approach is proposed in order to determine the optimal number and locations of PMUs to make the system measurement model observable and thereby can be used for power system state estimation. The PMU placement problem is formulated as a binary integer linear programming (BILP), in which the binary decision variables (0, 1) determine whether to install a PMU at each bus, while preserving the system observability and lowest system metering economy. The proposed approach integrates the impacts of both existing conventional power injection/flow measurements (if any) and the possibility of single or multiple PMU loss into the decision strategy of the optimal PMU allocation. Unlike other available techniques, the network topology remains unaltered for the inclusion of conventional measurements, and therefore the network connectivity matrix is built only once based on the original network topology. The mathematical formulation of the problem maintains the original bus ordering of the system under study, and therefore the solution directly points at the optimal PMU locations. Simulations using Matlab are conducted on a simple testing seven-bus system, as well as on different IEEE systems (14-bus, 30-bus, 57-bus, and 118-bus) to prove the validity of the proposed method. The results obtained in this paper are compared with those published before in literature.