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Personally, I use Gaim and Everybuddy AIM clients under Debian "unstable" in Gnome 2 with the Sawfish window manager, FWIW.
I'm not sure AOL has released a decent AIM client for Linux since Tik, which they discontinued. My guess is that they did it because it was written in TCL, which is an interpretted language, and therefore exposed its source code to anyone who downloaded it. They've released a few Java clients since then, and this one apparently uses a modified version of GTK+. I suspect that the root of the problem may be their modified GTK+. You probably have the normal version on your system somewhere, and I'd guess that there's a bad interaction between the two versions of the same library. Especially since I bet that the official AOL client is a badly tested hack, based on the quality of their previous efforts for Linux.