UPDATE 1-Congo central bank predicts steep rise in 2017 inflation

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KINSHASA, July 27 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's central bank said in a report on Thursday it expects inflation for this year to stand at 44.64 percent, up from a previous forecast of 33.12 percent and a 20 percentage point rise over last year.

Persistently low commodity prices and high government deficits have caused the franc currency in Africa's top copper producer to shed roughly 40 percent of its value in the past year and driven accelerating inflation.

With foreign reserves down to three weeks of import cover, the government is seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund and other donors.

However, donors are wary of aiding the government of President Joseph Kabila, who refused to step down when his mandate expired last December and whose government is accused of widespread human rights abuses - charges it denies.

In a letter last month to Congo's prime minister, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde proposed that a delegation visit in September but cautioned that balance of payments support would likely require political concessions to break the impasse over Kabila's future.

Congo relies on its oil and mining sectors for about 95 percent of export revenues. The government expects GDP growth to rebound to 3.1 percent this year, up from 2.4 percent last year. (Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Nellie Peyton, Alison Williams and Pritha Sarkar)