TIRANA, Albania — Albania's former interior minister has resigned as lawmaker to allow investigators to probe his alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring.

Saimir Tahiri on Thursday said he gave up his position in part so the investigation wouldn't stand in the way of Albania's integration path toward the European Union.

Tahiri, who served as interior minister under the leftist Socialist government from 2013 to 2017, is accused of alleged links to a criminal group suspected of trafficking large amounts of cannabis. Some of its leaders have been arrested in Italy and Albania.

Tahiri has strongly denied any links to the group.

Last year parliament lifted Tahiri's immunity so prosecutors could question him and search his residence.

Albania expects the European Council to approve launching EU membership talks in June.