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gdm, kdm, xdm can't startkde

Hi people,
This one's driving me crazy. I'm running Debian Etch 2.6.8-2-386 and
recently "upgraded" from xfree86 to xorg. Everything is fine except this
one problem. I can't start kde (my desktop of preference nor gnome nor xfce
from any display manager. Say I'm using gdm. I boot up and the gdm screen
comes on as usual and I login normally but instead of going into kde (or
gnome or xfce) an xterm opens. I can then enter (as me, not root)
"startkde" and everything is fine after that. I've read about similar 
problems dating as far back as 2001 but none of the solutions I've tried
has helped. My .xsession-errors file gives me this:

/etc/gdm/Xsession: Beginning session setup...
/etc/gdm/Xsession: Executing /usr/bin/startkde failed, will try to run

which is not very helpful. It doesn't tell me WHY startkde failed. I've
checked in various /var/log's but nothing revealing has appeared.

If I use kdm I get into an infinite loop. Selecting kde and logging in just
takes you right back to the login window and round and round we go.

Judging from looking at similar problems reported in various lists, these
symptoms can come from a variety of causes. Any help here would be greatly

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