Here is the final story on this one. Apparently, I had a partial installation of AST on another server and this was the root of the problem. Earlier versions of AST were more forgiving but version 1.5.3 not so much. I had to manually remove the partial installation of AST, install 1.5.3 on my main server and everything was working.
I found that the AST utilities and the uninstall Gateway apps didn't work very well on the partial installation server. Manual removal was the only way.